Invasive plant that causes third-degree burns found in Virginia

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The giant hogweed, a poisonous species, is already listed in eight states, and has now been spotted in Virginia.

On June 12, researchers at Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech identified giant hogweed in Virginia for the first time. Touching giant hogweed can also make you sensitive to sunlight and cause blindness if sap gets into a person's eye.

An invasive plant that emits a toxic sap that, when exposed to sunlight, can cause third-degree burns and even blindness, has been found in northern Virginia, Fox News is reporting. VDOT also reported sightings of the Giant Hogweed in the Staunton area and Middlesex County.

These plants had previously been found growing in other states in the Mid-Atlantic and New England - including in New York, Pennsylvania, and MA - and in the Pacific Northwest in OR and Washington.

To learn about the identification of giant hogweed and compare it to common look-alikes, check out the NYDEC site here. If sap gets into the eyes, rinse them with water, wear sunglasses, and seek immediate medical care.

"Weed eating is okay as long as you start when plants are small and continue mowing throughout the season", Davis said.

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Giant hogweed originates from the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian seas by Russian Federation - but it made its way to the U.S.by the early 20th century.

Besides being a threat to humans, giant hogweed can also impact the environment.

Giant Hogweed is said to be a member of the carrot family, and it can grow more than 14 feet. It features green and purple-splotched stems covered in white hairs, huge incised leaves up to 5 feet across and a mushroom-like canopy top with 50 to 150 individual white flowers. The spray of white flowers looks similar to Queen Anne's Lace, but the experts at Massey Herbarium note that giant hogweed is much larger, with chunkier leaves.

While giant hogweed was often originally planted for ornamental reasons, it can spread if soil containing plant or seeds gets moved or if seeds are carried by wind or a person or animal to a new location.

Environmental officials say if you want to remove the plant, do not use a weed-whacker, because the plant's sap can splatter and then spread quickly. Instead, the plant should either be pulled up using protective clothing or destroyed by use of herbicides. A toxic reaction can begin as soon as 15 minutes after contact.

After a burn, skin can be especially sensitive to sun exposure for several years.

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