Safety alert: Officials warn of toxic plant that can cause severe burns and blindness

An invasive and dangerous species of plant has been recently found in Virginia and it can cause people to go blind or suffer serious burns.

On June 13, 2018, Isle of Wight officials announced that the plant had been discovered and that people should not try to come in contact with it without wearing appropriate protective gear.

According to the Facebook post shared by Isle of Wight County Virginia, the plant is called Giant Hogweed, a very unusual plant that 'makes Poison Ivy look like a walk in the park' and can grow up to 14 feet.

Officials went on to explain that contact with the plant, when combined with exposure to sunlight, could lead to 3rd-degree burns and permanent blindness.

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The species can currently be found on the Virginia Invasive Plants Early Detection Species list, which means that the plant is not commonly found in the state but can be expected to invade such habitats.

The same post claimed that the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation studies and investigates reports of the plants before trying to eradicate it in order to prevent any possible permanent establishment.

While some people might feel compelled to just whack the plant off, it is highly recommended not to do so because it would increase the risk of exposure to its sap. Plus, cutting the plant would result in the roots readily sending up a brand new stalk.  

According to the Virginia Invasive Species website, the best way to get rid of the Giant Hogweed is to place every piece of the plant in a 'heavy duty garbage bag for disposal.'

So far, there have been reported sightings of Giant Hogweed in the Staunton area and Middlesex County, and there is a strong possibility that the plant could find a way to reach the Coastal area of Virginia.

The plant was found by accident when Alex Childress, a 17-year-old who was doing some landscaping work, snipped a bush and touched it. Initially, he believed that it was a severe sunburn but quickly realized that it was more serious than that when his skin started peeling while in the shower.

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