North Carolina Agriculture Agent Chad Taylor has seen several patches of the toxic Giant Hogweed in recent weeks, but nothing like the one found in Blowing Rock on Thursday.
“This is the biggest I’ve seen,” Taylor said. He’s been on the lookout for the plant because of its toxic nature.
A tip led him to the back yard of a local home. The sap can cause big trouble to humans and pets.
“It can cause third-degree burns,” said Taylor. “In some cases, it can cause blindness.”
State agents are following tips to locate patches and destroy them. The plant is native to central Asia and has been around for a while, but lately there has been an increase in sightings.
It garnered a lot of attention a few weeks ago after a teenager in Virginia was severely burned by the sap.
The plant likes shady, moist areas and can grow over 6 feet tall with a canopy of flowers atop it. “Sort of like Queen Anns Lace,” said Taylor. Even smaller ones without the flowers can be toxic, he says.
All it takes is contact with the sap. People who do get sap on them or on their pets should quickly wash the affected areas with warm, soapy water.
Taylor advises anyone who thinks they have spotted hogweed to contact their local NC Agriculture agent and let them take a look to determine the best course of action.
One problem with the plant is that the seeds that fall from the flowers can remain in the ground for 10 to 15 years and still sprout. Taylor says that means those areas where hogweed has been sprayed and killed must still be checked in the future.