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article imageToxic plant that can cause blindness found in Michigan

By Karen Graham     Aug 4, 2015 in Environment
Battle Creek - Michigan's Calhoun County Public Health Department has issued a warning to people who want to take nature walks, especially near Battle Creek. A highly toxic plant, called the giant hogweed, was found in Pennfield Township and was removed.
How about another thing to add to your worry list? This time it's not bacteria-contaminated food or antibiotic-laced meat or fish. It's a plant, and it is dangerous.
The nasty plant is called a giant hogweed, and it is a giant. The plant typically grows from 6 ft. 7 in. to 18 ft. 1 inches in height, and superficially, resembles common hogweed, but that's where the similarity ends. And while it is a member of the carrot family, it is not good for your eyes.
In 2011, Maine state horticulturists described the giant hogweed as "Queen Anne's lace on steroids," saying the noxious plant is now found in 21 counties in the state.
Paul Makoski, environmental health director of Calhoun County, told the local news station that giant hogweed is usually found mixed in with other plants and weeds, and while it's not "deadly," it is very toxic and can cause a lot of discomfort.
Heracleum mantegazzianum, also known as giant hogweed, giant cow parsnip, hogsbane or giant cow parsley, is phototoxic. This means that in sunlight, it begins to burn, so if someone gets the plant's sap on their skin and then is exposed to sunlight or ultraviolet rays, they can develop severe dermatitis. Think poison ivy, only worse.
“Sometimes that can take 24 [to] 48 hours to develop,” Makoski told WWMT.com. “But what happens is there's almost that possibility that they can develop into permanent purple of black scars on your skin." People often have to be hospitalized, especially when the plant comes into contact with the eyes because it can lead to loss of eyesight.
Resident Bob Coward says it's a beautiful plant, and he has seen a giant hogweed before. “It likes to grow at the edge of a swamp is where it typically grows--in wet areas. It's very distinctive when you see it because it's got that great big white flower on the top,” says Coward.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development says on its website the giant hogweed was introduced into this country and the UK from Central Asia in the early 1900s for display in arboretums and gardens. The plant is now widespread in the British Isles. It has also spread into northeastern and northwestern regions of the U.S. and into southern Canada.
In Canada, the giant hogweed has been spotted in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and in isolated areas of Newfoundland. It reached Quebec in the 1990s, according to a story on CBC News.
Health officials advise anyone who have come in contact with giant hogweed to wash their hands and exposed areas with soap and water, and immediately flush the eyes with cool, clear water. They also suggest you seek medical attention right away.
More about giant hogweed plant, Michigan, phytophotodermatitis i, canada and us, Blindness
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