If your family will be spending more time outdoors this summer, the U.S. Forest Service wants to make the you aware of a toxic plant that could cause severe skin irritation and in some cases, blindness.
The plant’s scientific name is Heracleum mantegazzianum, but it’s commonly known as the giant hogweed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture as well as multiple state’s Departments of Natural Resources have issued warnings against the plant, which is now making its annual appearance in certain parts of the northeast and northwest United States and Canada.
The plant’s appearance consists of large leaves, hairy stems, and umbrella-shaped white flowers. It blooms in late spring can grow up to 5 meters tall. The plant looks similar to many common plants, such as cow parsnip and Queen Anne's lace. Officials say that giant hogweed is very difficult to eradicate.
When the giant hogweed is touched, it releases sap and the toxic substance can make skin hypersensitive to the sun. The sap can causes something called phytophotodermatitis, which can lead to blisters, scarring, and discoloration of the skin. It can also leave skin sensitive to the sun for years. Scariest of all, according to this article in the Washington Post, the U.S. Forest Service warns that "sap in the eyes can cause temporary or possibly permanent blindness.”