Sunday, July 24, 2011

Monster Plant Could be Moving this Way

An article I read online in the Pocono Record this morning had this headline:

'Monster Plant' Could be Moving this Way

Excerpts from the article, which talks about a plant that is "so nasty, it will make your skin boil --- literally", note that this plant has already become established in Maryland and Virginia.

Look, but don't touch 

"Giant hogweed exudes a clear, watery sap that causes the skin to become photosensitive to ultraviolet radiation," said Don R. Robbins, weed control administrator for the Maryland Department of Agriculture. "Contact with the sap can result in severe burns, blisters and dermatitis, possibly leading to future complications, namely skin cancer."

The Michigan Department of Agriculture states: "This tall, majestic plant is a public health hazard because of its potential to cause severe skin irritation in susceptible people. Plant sap produces painful, burning blisters within 24 to 48 hours after contact. Plant juices also can produce painless red blotches that later develop into purplish or brownish scars that may persist for several years. For an adverse reaction to occur, the skin, contaminated with plant juices, must be moist (perspiration) and then exposed to sunlight. Some other plants are capable of causing this reaction, known as phytophotodermatitis."

Giant hogweed grows in a variety of habitats such as river bottomlands, roadsides, disturbed areas, lawns and gardens.

There are two large native plants that look like hogweed — purple angelica (Angelica atropurpurea) and cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum); and one introduced species, poison hemlock (Conium maculatum). All these grow in the same habitats as giant hogweed.

Although this plant isn't new to the area (it was listed as the Invasive Species of the Month in Maryland back in 2003 and an Exotic Invasive of the Quarter in Virginia in the Winter 2011 issue of the Virginia Forest Landowner), the article is a good reminder that we should all become familiar with the problem plants and critters that live in our area.

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