Second Sighting of the Poisonous Hogweed Plant in Alexandria

June 22, 2018 Updated: June 22, 2018    

A poisonous invasive plant that was just recently reported to have established in Virginia State has now also been found at a second location in Alexandria.

The giant hogweed, a plant that can cause third-degree burns and permanent blindness, was first sighted in the state in Isle of Wight County. The second sighting on Thursday was reported to be between two buildings on Martha Custis Drive.

Property managers of the buildings said they met with experts from the Virginia Cooperative Extension to investigate the plant. The plant was then safely removed, News4 reported.

Alicia Capobianco, a resident of Alexandria, said that it was “kind of cool” that something as unique as hogweed was in the neighborhood but added that it was also unfortunate because the weed wasn’t something you’d want to touch or go near.

Hogweed can burn when its sap makes contact with the skin in sunlight. The resulting chemical reaction can result in severe skin blisters. If the sap makes contact with the eyes, it can result in permanent blindness.

Photo of Giant Hogweed taken on June 12, 2009. (debs-eye [CC BY 2.0 (ept.ms/2haHp2Y)] via Flickr)
If you make contact with hogweed sap, experts say to immediately wash the affected area, stay out of sunlight and seeking medical attention, according to the National Geographic.

In addition to nasty burns, hogweed is also a threat to the surrounding ecosystem because its leaves are so large that other plants around it struggle to compete for sunlight, Nature reports. Hogweeds disperse tens of thousands of seeds every year to invade new areas. The seeds are transported along waterways and remain dormant through winter to thrive in the spring and summer. Hogweed has also been linked to faster soil erosion as bare soil is left upon the plant’s death.

Due to the plant’s destructive nature, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation is targeting hogweed for eradication before it can spread and populate more of the state. There is already a large spread of Hogweed between the states of Ohio, Michigan and New York up into Canada.

Michael Flessner, assistant professor and weed specialist, said although it’s a dangerous plant, he’s not too concerned since at the moment, it remains an isolated incident.

 

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