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Officials in Canada and the U.S. are warning residents not to touch giant hogweed plants, which have been popping up in large numbers in both countries. When combined with sunlight, sap from the plants can cause extreme skin irritation, temporary or permanent blindness and scarring.

Plant that can cause third-degree burns in Canada


Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Thursday, July 21, 2016, 3:37 PM - Giant hogweed is nothing new. In fact, it's been around for years. But every summer, unsuspecting residents come into contact with the dangerous plant, leading to rashes, burns and -- in extreme cases -- blindness.

Officials in both Canada and the U.S. are warning residents not to touch giant hogweed plants, which have been popping up in large numbers in both countries. 

This year, the plant made an appearance in eastern Ontario for the first time. It's also expected to spread into Manitoba. So far, it has been confirmed in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador. It is not present in the territories.

Giant hogweed is often mistaken for wild parsnip, another plant that can cause blistering burns and is native to all provinces.

WHY IS GIANT HOGWEED DANGEROUS?

When combined with sunlight, sap from the plants can cause extreme skin irritation, temporary or permanent blindness and scarring.

Burns acquired from the plant can continue to cause painful blisters when exposed to sunlight for up to a decade.

According to weather.com, there have been several reports of children in the U.S. and the U.K. suffering from severe burns following interactions with the plant, which blooms in mid-August.

While reports in Canada have been minimal, a woman in Renfrew, Ontario was told last summer she would have to avoid direct sunlight for three years after being badly burned by wild parsnip. 

Wild parsnip looks similar, but is smaller and has yellow flowers.


READ MORE: Eight flowers that can make you ill


Though not native to Canada, giant hogweed appears to be doing well in Canada's various climates.

It can grow up to two metres in height and looks like a gigantic version of Queen Anne's lace.

Health officials have called the invasive species a 'public health hazard'.

Should you come into contact with the plant, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water and avoid sunlight for 48 hours.

If you think you have been burned by giant hogweed, see a physician immediately.

Giant hogweed sightings can be reported to the Ministry of Natural Resources.

GIANT HOGWEED PRE-BLOOM:



GIANT HOGWEED POST-BLOOM:



Sources: Winnipeg Sun | The Weather Channel

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