A Plant Worse Than Poison Ivy


Giant Hogweed - worse than poison ivy

How can it be possible? For those that have suffered from a poison oak or poison ivy rash, you're thinking, "it's not possible!" Well, for Michiganders, it's true! Mother Nature has served up another heinous plant adventurers are best to avoid. Recently, the Calhoun County Public Health Department discovered giant hogweed and has warned outdoor patrons to steer clear.

Originally from Central Asia, Heracleum mantegazzianum (giant hogweed, cartwheel flower, giant cow parsnip, or hogsbane), a member of the carrot family, made its way to the United States in 1917 as an ornamental plant. Of the handful of Eastern and Western states giant hogweed calls home, several have federally listed the plant as a noxious weed, including Michigan. In fact, in 1998 the State of Michigan enforced a search-and-destroy policy toward giant hogweed to keep the plant from spreading.

Similar to poison oak and ivy plants, if you come into contact with the sap containing the rash-causing agent, furocoumarin, found in the leaves, roots, stems, flowers, or seeds of giant hogweed, it can cause severe skin inflammation and scarring. What's so scary about this plant? Of the nasty symptoms, the most notable, is its potential to cause BLINDNESS! What's worse? Making contact with this plant even more terrifying, is the fact that you may not know if you've been exposed as it can take up to 48 hours before a reaction takes place.

So named for its height, this biennial plant can grow anywhere from 6-12 feet high! White flowers bloom in clusters the shape of umbrellas, anywhere between late spring and mid-summer. The thick, bright green stem is typically covered in dark red or purple spots with white-ish bristles.

 If contact with this noxious plant does occur, officials advise washing with soapy water immediately, as well as flushing the eyes with water. Seek medical attention straightaway.

Don't let plants like giant hogweed, or poison oak and ivy keep you from venturing outdoors! Know how to identify these plants, study the proper precautions, and know what protocol to follow if you come into contact with them. Adventure without worry!

Live Life. Get outdoors!™

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4 comments for “A Plant Worse Than Poison Ivy”

  1. Posted 9/7/2015 at 2:19:28 AM
    Gravatar of Jane Miller

    I assume this is different than Queen Anne's Lace, but it sure looks a lot like it. I vaguely recall that Queen Anne's Lace is also part of the carrot family. Will you please confirm that this is different from Queen Anne's Lace that is found all over the eastern US?

  2. Posted 9/9/2015 at 2:25:31 PM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Jane, as far as we know, Queen Anne's lace and Wild Hogweed are two different plant species.

  3. Posted 9/15/2015 at 4:31:46 AM
    Gravatar of Bob

    We have lots of it this year....northern New York

  4. Posted 9/24/2015 at 8:52:48 AM
    Gravatar of Caileen

    Scary, Bob! Steer clear of the nasty stuff!

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