An invasive species of Asian plant that can cause blindness is turning up in Virginia, prompting warnings for people to be on the lookout for a 15-foot-tall herb topped with fluffy white flowers.
Thirty giant hogweed plants were found June 12 in Virginia's Clarke County, northwest of Washington D.C., according to The Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech.
Isle of Wight County Virginia posted on Facebook this week that additional plants had been reported in the area of Staunton near Charlottesville, and Middlesex County, east of Richmond.
"Giant hogweed makes poison ivy look like a walk in the park," said the alert posted by Isle of Wight County. "Contact with this plant, combined with exposure to the sun, can produce third degree burns and permanent blindness."
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The plant has been found in at least one North Carolina county, Caldwell, back in 2016, according to the NC Invasive Plant Council.
Virginia's invasive species website says the plant's "clear watery" sap is a "serious human health hazard."
The sap produces dark, painful blisters within 48 hours that can last for weeks, and blindness can occur if it gets into the eye, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Giant hogweed as a "perennial herb in the carrot family" that grows from 6 to 15 feet in height, says VAInvasiveSpecies.org. It is native to the Caucasus Mountains of western Asia, says the site.
Experts believe it found its way to other parts of the world via inclusion in botanical gardens.