Researchers at the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech discovered an invasive weed called Giant Hogweed, in Clarke County, Virginia, which can cause third-degree burns and even permanent blindness.

“Giant Hogweed makes Poison Ivy look like a walk in the park. Contact with this plant, combine with exposure to the sun, can produce 3rd-degree burns and permanent blindness,” read Isle of Wight County Virginia’s safety alert regarding the deadly plant on Facebook.

The plant is originally from the Caucasus Region in Russia and Central Asia and was introduced into ornamental gardens in Europe and North America in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Although Virginia is the only the state so far which has reported a sighting of the plant, wildlife authorities from states like Washington, Minnesota, and Michigan, are also on a lookout for the plant, which can easily be mistaken for harmless plants like Queen Anne’s Lace and Cow Parsnip.

The plant’s invasive nature causes it to grow up to 14 feet in areas which are not pervaded by sunlight, hindering the growth of native plants in the area. If it is not removed as quickly as possible, it can form a dense canopy as it produces up to 20,000 seeds, Tech Times reported. 

Its stems, which are two to four inches in diameter, are hollow with dark purple and red raised spots and bristle-like hairs. White, umbrella-shaped flowers, which are two and a half feet wide in diameter, grow on the plant.

If people come across a plant resembling the description of a Giant Hogweed, they are requested to get in touch with state authorities. Residents are warned not to try and remove the plant with a weed-whacker as it can cause its sap to splatter and spread quickly.

Instead, they can put on protective clothing before digging up the roots of the plant or spraying it with herbicides.

The sap of Giant Hogweed is what makes it dangerous to humans. The Isle of Wight County Virginia explained in its Facebook post what can happen if a person comes in contact with the sap.

“Skin reactions vary, but phytophotodermatitis can occur, meaning the sap makes the skin so sensitive to sunlight that severe burns can occur from normal exposure to sun,” the post said. “Symptoms include painful blisters, which become darkly pigmented and can cause scars. Your skin can remain sensitive to sunlight for many years after exposure as well. And, if the sap gets in your eyes, there is the potential for blindness.”

If a person happens to accidentally touch the sap, some of the precautionary measures to be followed are thoroughly rinsing the sap-covered area with water and avoiding stepping into direct sunlight for the next 48 hours. However, if you notice blisters forming in the area, it is always best to consult a doctor.