Hogweed plant can cause skin irritation, blindness

A close up of a hogweed plant, which has hairy stems, umbrella-shaped white flowers and huge leaves. It can grow as high as 15 feet. (AP)

WASHINGTON – It is big and kind of pretty, but the giant hogweed plant can burn your skin or even blind you.

The plant’s scientific name is Heracleum mantegazzianum. While it is a relative of the lowly carrot and parsnip, the giant hogweed is really bad news.

With its huge leaves, hairy stems and towering, umbrella-shaped white flowers, it can grow up to 15 feet tall. But it is not just the plant’s intimidating looks that are worrisome. It is what the plant does. When it is touched, the plant releases sap toxic enough to make skin hypersensitive to the sun for years.

The U.S. Forest Service also warns that “sap in the eyes can cause temporary or possibly permanent blindness.”

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