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Thursday, March 29, 2012

BEWARE THE HOGWEEDS OF MARCH!


And of every other month as well, at least if you value your eyesight and your skin.

Giant Hogweed, scientific name Heracleum Mantegazzianum is an intrusive plant in the United States, it is native to the Caucasus region of Europe and has been introduced in many other regions as a garden plant.

It looks like nothing more sinister than a large form - some specimens can top 15 feet - of Queen Anne's Lace to which it is distantly related. It is also related to the carrot but it is, of course, completely inedible as every potion of the plant which grows above ground is toxic with substances know as  furanocoumarins.

This toxin attacks the very DNA of those who come into contact with it, and will cause severe burning and blistering of the flesh by producing extreme sensitivity to UV light, a condition known as phytophotodermatitus.

The condition is highly unpleasant and although it may be caused by almost every part of the plant it is the sap which is most dangerous. If sap comes in contact with the eyes blindness not only can, but probably will, result.

Blistering can continue for months and even years depending on the amount of exposure and the degree of sensitivity of the person exposed.

Never cut or try to remove hogweed unless all skin is protected by impermeable clothing and the eyes are protected by goggles. If at all possible leave removal to professionals.

Needless to say, children and animals should be kept away from hogweed at all times.

Hogweed can be readily distinguished from Queen Anne's Lace by its prodigious size and also by it's large, broad leaves which look nothing like the frilly, ferny leaves of its innocuous cousin.

Hogweed: Learn to recognize it, do your very best to avoid it. The skin you save may be your own!

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