You may have seen reports of a toxic plant called the "Giant Hogweed" that can cause serious damage on Social Media, but what are they?

The Giant Hogweed is an invasive plant that is growing in northern areas of the country. Mainly in the Northwest and New England area. However, this toxic plant has also been spotted a little closer to home.

While it has only been spotted in a couple of counties in Northern Indiana, the possibility is out there that there could be some closer to the Tri-State. Therefore, you should consider this one of those "better safe than sorry" posts...just in case you happen to see one around Southern Indiana, Kentucky, or Southern Illinois for that matter. According to The Indiana Wildlife Foundation,

Giant Hogweed is especially dangerous due to the sap coating the entire plant.  If the sap makes contact with skin or eyes, and is then exposed to any kind of UV light or moisture, it reacts in a way that inhibits our protection from UV light.

So what does this mean? If you're exposed to the sap, and the affected area is exposed to sunlight, it cause third degree burns on your skin. If you were to rub your eyes, it could cause permanent blindness as well. People in New York and Virginia have shared reports of the damage that these Giant Hogweed plants can cause.

So how do are you going to be able to identify a Giant Hogweed if there were to be one in the area? Most of the time, they are easy to spot, as they can grow anywhere from 8-15 feet tall when flowering. You will be able to see white flowers on the plant when it has bloomed, like in the photo below.

Giant Hogweed

Again, there have been no reports of these in Southern Indiana, Northwestern Kentucky, or Southern Illinois, but these plants are rapidly spreading. Not only that, but there have been similar-looking invasive plant that has been spotted in Kentucky, called  Wild Parsnip (or 'Poison Parsnip"). These plants can also cause similar symptoms from severe itching to skin burns and blistering. It's identifiable by its clusters of yellow flowers.

parsnip flower

While there have been no reports of the Giant Hogwood plant in any of the other counties in Indiana, the possibility is always there. If you believe you've come across a Giant Hogweed plant, it's best to call the Indiana Department of Natural Resources at 1-866 NO EXOTIC (1-866-663-9684) to have experts take care of removal.  DO NOT try to get rid of them yourself. They are extremely dangerous if not handled properly, and they need to be reported.

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