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!™