Friday, July 11, 2014 2:01 PM EDT
Not great news, I'm afraid.
Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org
National news outlets are whipping Canadians into a formidable frenzy over reports of a giant -- like, 12 feet tall -- Hogweed, that can burn and scar your skin and leave you with permanent sight damage if contact is made with its clear, terrible sap.
Though this story surfaces every year as a seasonal media provocateur, the update this summer is that the giant Hogweed continues to spread across Canada, and as such you should really watch out for it in your local parks and ravines.
Where does it grow?
Anywhere where there is undisturbed brush -- public parks, ravines, wooded areas -- especially river- and roadside.
What does it look like?
Well, when it flowers, like Queen Anne's Lace on steroids -- except the characteristic white crown can reach up to a metre in width. When not in bloom or fully grown, look for telltale signs on the thick stalk, such as purple spots and prickly follicles.
Image courtesy of InvadingSpecies.com
What are the symptoms if exposure occurs?
While you should be extremely cautious when approaching this plant, it's the clear sap that poses the threat. Exposure occurs if you tear and/or try to remove the plant, thereby releasing the sap and risking coming into contact.
The dangerous sap chemically bonds with skin and causes a reaction within 48 hours, after exposure to sunlight. The skin reddens, and a burning, painful sensation occurs, potentially lasting for weeks on end, and ultimately resulting in permanent red marks and/or scarring.
If the sap comes in contact with the eye, the retina can sustain burns and permanent vision damage as a result.
What to do if exposure occurs?
Wash the exposed area immediately and keep it out of the sun. Call your doctor if redness and burning begin to occur.
What to do if you think you've found Giant Hogweed?
DO NOT attempt removing it yourself. The Ministry of Natural Resources recommends hiring a professional exterminator to remove it. If you see it in the wild, you can contact the Invading Species Awareness Program at 1-800-563-7711 or visit their website www.invadingspecies.com.
Aside from risks of personal exposure, the main danger of attempting to remove the plant on your own is the spreading of the seeds. The plant is extremely invasive and can give off between 50 and 125,000 seeds per unit, which will lead to a much bigger problem next season.
If you do decide to take matters into your own hands, make sure you wear think clothing or a protective coverall, protection gloves and goggles. Once you've removed the plat, it is recommended that you bag it and leave it in the sun for up to two weeks to kill the effects of its poison, as it can remain active well beyond the point of being cut down.
Giant Hogweed is a native of Georgia in the Caucaseus region of Eurasia. It is thought to have been brought to North America as a curiosity at the turn of the century. Though considerable effort has been made to eradicate the plant in populated areas, the plant continues to spread and is in fact dangerous not only to humans but the ecological environment. Like all weeds it prevents other, beneficial flora and fauna from growing around it. If you see Giant Hogweed, best to report it with the www.invadingspecies.com or with your local Parks & Rec. department.
Why would anyone consider this a curiously??? It's no Penis Fly Trap, that's for sure...