With warm weather blanketing the United States and summer vacay in full swing, parents everywhere are rejoicing in sending kids outside to play, off of the iPads and onto the dog days of the season. Not to be a total killjoy, but there is a particular plant parents and kids should be aware of as they head into nature in the coming weeks because its effects are enough to ruin your lazy-ish days.
The offending plant in question is the Giant Hogweed, which finds its roots (yes, pun intended) in Southwest Asia but began sprouting in New York several years ago. Now it is turning up in parts of Virginia and agricultural experts are concerned.
Why do we need to be concerned about the giant hogweed? Despite sounding like something that J.K. Rowling dreamed up for the Harry Potter series, it contains a toxic sap that not only has the ability to cause blistering burns, but in some instances even blindness.
The plant hardly looks menacing, either. According to Today.com, it's described as having a hollow, rigid stem covered in purple splotches with thick, white hairs (this is the section that contain the toxic sap). It can grow between 8 and 15 feet tall, with white flowers that bloom into an umbrella-like shape.
Even worse, the toxic sap doesn't just ooze out of the plant, it can actually splatter. When in contact with the skin and normal sun exposure, it can form painful blisters that may also cause scars. The sap also has the unfortunate ability to make your skin more sensitive to the sun for years after exposure. As one agricultural official put it, the giant hogweed makes poison ivy "look like a walk in the park."
Be careful if you encounter this invasive plant! The clear watery sap of Giant Hogweed contains toxins that can cause dermatitis (inflammation of the skin). It can cause burns if you get the sap on your skin and the skin is then exposed to sunlight. pic.twitter.com/zg2XB30gtN— Invading Species (@invspecies) June 14, 2018
If you've ever experienced poison ivy, you know this description is far from flattering.
To keep your children protected, remind them not to try to pick or even touch any plants while outside. Show them photos of the giant hogweed so that they can identify the plant, explaining its potential dangers and the continuing effects it can have if the sap comes in contact with their skin.
We want summer to be fun and playful for our kids, but keeping them safe always comes first.