Blog Post By Jona Elwell

Hogweed is Here: What it Is, What it Looks Like, and Why You Should Avoid it

Giant hogweed is one of three plants defined in Virginia as a Tier 1 noxious weed and is heavily regulated. (Noxious weeds are regulated by the state and can’t be bought or sold). It’s thought that the plant was brought over and cultivated as an ornamental garden plant by a hobby gardener.

This weed eventually made it way to the East Coast and was even spotted in Berryville (thankfully not on our Farm!).

In reality, the plant only spreads by seed, each plant produces up to 50,000 seeds released from late August onwards and cast into the wind or water. But the giant hogweed is undoubtedly a dangerous plant, armed with highly toxic sap and just brushing past it with bare skin is enough to cause painful skin burns, which blister when exposed to ultraviolet rays in daylight, and can take months to heal. If you read headlines that mention blindness, that’s because permanent blindness can occur if the sap gets in your eyes.

What to look for when avoiding this unwelcome guest? It’s really tall (5-14 feet), with large white flowers with 50-150 flower rays clustered into an umbrella-shaped flower cluster up to 2.5 feet across, and splotchy purple stems.

What to do if you come in contact with it? Immediately wash the affected area with warm water, stay out of sunlight, and seek medical attention.

Think you’ve seen it? Take photos, check online to compare the plant to photos, and then contact a Virginia Cooperative Extension agent or the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Don’t take a weed wacker or mower to it though, leave that to the professionals.

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