Giant Hogweed: Burns
Giant Hogweed, is a magnificent but dangerous plant packed with harmful sap that can cause serious burns, swelling, redness, scarring, blisters, sunlight sensitivity and even blindness. The toxins in the sap are activated by light so exposure to sunlight, even years later can reactivate the toxins in the sap. This means that you can re-burn even up to 10 years later from initial contact with the sap. Awareness is key to preventing harm from this beautiful unsuspecting plant.
Giant Hogweed has many look-alikes. Luckily it has one amazing stand out quality that really helps in identification. It is very tall! On average this plant can grow 3 to 4.5 m tall (9.8 to 14.8 ft). To be able to grow so tall, it must grow thick and sturdy stems. Its stems can range from 3 to 10 cm (1.2 to 3.9 in) in diameter.
Two key distinguishing characteristics of the Giant Hogweed’s stems are the dark reddish-purple splotches and the coarse white hairs located at the base of the leaf stalks. A closely related species to the Giant Hogweed, the Cow Parsnip, does not have the reddish-purple splotches but it does have the white coarse hairs – beware of this plant too as it can also cause burns, although not as harmful as those of Giant Hogweed.
Giant Hogweed’s leaves are a spectacle of its own and grow into a compound, lobed leaf typically 100 to 150 cm wide (39 to 59 in). The more mature the leaf, the more serrated edges and deeper incisions they have.
Probably the Giant Hogweed’s most spectacular characteristics are the beautiful, small, white flowers – sometimes slightly green too – that form an umbel. An umbel looks like an upside-down umbrella group of flowers. Those umbels can grow anywhere from 80 to 100cm (31 to 39 in) in diameter and contain 50 to 150 flower rays. Blooming season for the Giant Hogweed only happens once in its lifetime and is known to be about mid-June to mid-July. The green seeds are produced by each flower which eventually dries out and turns brown.
If you do happen to come across a Giant Hogweed on an adventure in the wild, hopefully, the flowers are in full bloom so you can at least admire this plant from afar. If you come across this plant in a populated area, it is recommended to report it to your local conservation center or arrange to have it professionally removed.
Region and Look-alikes:
The Giant Hogweed is native to the Middle East. It made its way to Western Europe, the USA, and Canada since its very attractive in gardens and landscapes. Giant Hogweed has an incredible ability to reproduce.
It disperses many seeds that have the ability to survive underground for up to 15 years until favourable conditions are met for it to sprout. This makes complete removal tedious and difficult, especially when considering the dangers of removing it. As an invasive species in Europe and North America, it quickly can take over and threaten native species.
Giant Hogweed has many look-alikes, so its important to be careful when touching any plants unless you are completely certain of its identification. Common look-alikes include; Cow Parsnip, the Wild Parsnip, Angelica, Queen Anne’s Lace, and Poison Hemlock.
What happens when exposed to Giant Hogweed
The sap the Giant Hogweed produces is phototoxic, meaning that it causes chemically induced skin irritation after being activated by UV light, or simply put, sunlight. Exposure to sunlight after being exposed to the sap causes a reaction called phytophotodermatitis. This reactivated the toxins in from the sap and makes the skin extra sensitive to sunlight. The result could be anywhere from a mild burn to serious blisters and scars.
The compounds within the sap also induce the production of melanin in the human skin after sunlight activation, which then further results in hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin). Reactions can begin as soon as 15 minutes after exposure to the sap and sunlight, but they typically begin within 24 hours and peak around 48 to 72 hours.
What to do if exposed
If you come in contact with the sap, IMMEDIATELY wash the affected area with mild soap and cold water; heat and moisture can worsen the skin reaction. The sooner you can wash with soap and cool water, the less possible damage will occur.
It is also very important to avoid sunlight for at least 48 hours since the affected skin’s integrity has been compromised. If you are unable to avoid the sun, cover the affected area with sun protective clothing or lastly, apply sunscreen after washing.
We urge you to visit your doctor as soon as possible to be prescribed the right topical or oral medication to properly treat the inflammatory reaction, if necessary. A dermatologist may also prescribe a bleaching cream to help treat the hyperpigmentation in more severe, permanent cases.
Although nature produces such beautiful, amazing plants and organisms, we must be aware of the dangerous entities to ensure our safety and health. We encourage you to further educate yourselves on the Giant Hogweed among many other potentially dangerous plants that may be present in the area you are planning to explore.
Giant Hogweed is an invasive species in North America and Europe and it can flourish in populated areas if left undisturbed. If you happen to come across a Giant Hogweed in an area where you are worried about people’s safety, report it to your local conservation center to have it properly removed by an experienced exterminator.
The same action should occur if you ever find this plant on your property as well. Stay safe out there and remember to have fun and enjoy the natural landscapes our beautiful Earth has to offer!
Black Ointment: Skin healing ointment
Black ointment is here to soothe skin. It works wonders on rashes and itchy skin such as psoriasis and eczema. It also comes in handy for those pesky aches and pains. Apply it to strains, sprains, backache as well as itchy irritated skin, scrapes, burns, blisters and rashes for relief that lets you focus on life, without irritation.