In recent months, an invasive species of plant, Giant Hogweed, has been introduced to the local Massachusetts area. In addition to Massachusetts, this plant has made its way through other areas such as New York, Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut, just to name a few. Not only can this plant be detrimental to your yard, but can also pose serious health risks for humans.
How to Identify Giant Hogweed
Below are some key characteristics for identifying this invasive species:
- Height: This plant may grow between 7 and 14 feet tall — but this growth will likely take place over a 3-5 year timeframe. Once it receives enough nutrients from the soil after a few years, the height of this plant typically skyrockets over a short period of time.
- Flowers and Leaves: In early summer months, white flowers begin to bloom upon receiving additional nutrients from the soil. These flowers, usually 1-2 feet across, assemble themselves into an upside-down umbrella shape. Such flowers are also typically accompanied by leaves that are deeply lobed and can grow up to 5 feet across.
- Color and Texture: One of the easiest ways to identify this plant is by the appearance of the stem. Be on the lookout for purple blotches and white hairs at its base. If you are able to identify both of these qualities on the same plant, then Giant Hogweed has most likely made a home of your yard.
- Area of Growth: This species is likely to grow in yards and fields, as well as along small bodies of water (such as rivers and streams), where space is partially shaded.
The Risks of Giant Hogweed
One of the most dangerous aspects of this species is the reaction that occurs when its sap comes into contact with human skin. If you accidentally brush up against any part of the flowers or leaves, your skin may react as quickly as within 10-15 minutes.
Painful blisters that are dark in color are likely to form, however they may take up to two days to become visible. The scars that remain once the blisters have healed may last for multiple years, and usually retain a brown/purple color.
To reduce long-term damage to your skin, be sure to wash the affected area with soap and water immediately upon coming into contact with the plant. It is also important to cover your skin and avoid sun exposure for 48 hours after coming into contact with the plant. Upon experiencing a skin reaction, contact your doctor as soon as possible, as he/she will be able to provide appropriate treatment based on your symptoms.
How to Manage and Remove Giant Hogweed
Below are options for handling Giant Hogweed infestation:
- Contact Your Local Authority: Upon identifying the plant, be sure to reach out to your local authority so they are aware of the areas at risk. It is possible that they may remove the plant themselves, or they also may provide you with information on how to properly remove it while wearing protective attire.
- Manual Control Methods: More manual methods of control may involve cutting the roots of the plant at its base, or applying an herbicide. Since this plant poses a risk to public health, it is best to contact your local lawn expert for assistance.
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