The first such plant in Virgnia was apparently identified in Clarke County, one of the herbarium’s postings said. There were “actually about 30 plants,” the posting said. Clarke County is about 65 miles west of Washington, D.C.
A New York state horticultural site provided a detailed description of the hazardous plant. It described white flowers, with 50-150 flower rays clustered into an umbrella shaped flower cluster up to 2.5 feet across.
In addition, the plant appears to live up to the ‘giant” appelation in its name. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, it can grow to between seven and 14 feet tall.
With their deep lobes and complex patterns, its huge leaves may be as much as five feet across.
Its dimensions might encourage hikers to touch and feel. However, the New York agency’s website sought to squelch any such temptation. It warned: “Do Not Touch This Plant!”
The site called it a federally listed noxious weed. Combined with moisture and sunlight, its sap can cause skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, permanent scarring and blindness, the New York site said.
Although it might appear from that description to be unique among plants that might be encountered in the United States, it is not. It resembles the widespread cow parsnip, Virginia Tech’s herbarium said.
“So if you think you have found giant hogweed, there’s a really good chance it’s actually cow parsnip.” the herbarium said. But the cow parsnip also causes ill effects, including a blistering skin rash.
It was not clear Monday who had discovered Virginia’s giant hogweed, or if anyone had suffered ill effects.