Michigan Warns: This Plant Can Blind You

Steer clear of the giant hogweed
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 4, 2015 2:16 PM CDT
Updated Aug 8, 2015 3:42 PM CDT
Michigan Warns: This Plant Can Blind You
The giant hogweed. Steer clear.   (Image made by nature protector Natubico; www.vivism.info)

Today's reminder that Mother Nature has the upper hand: western Michigan officials are warning the public about the possible presence of a plant that looks a bit like Queen Anne's lace—and has the ability to blind you. The Calhoun County Public Health Department says it identified and removed a giant hogweed plant in Pennfield Township, and the fact that one existed at all is so serious that the place it was found will be checked for years to come, reports the Detroit Free Press. The paper calls Heracleum mantegazzianum "one of Mother Nature’s nastier creations," and makes clear why: Its sap, which is found on pretty much all of the plant (roots, leaves, seeds, flowers, etc.) can blister or scar the skin of any who touch it.

Get it in your eye and temporary or permanent blindness can follow, per the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Any who touch it are advised to wash immediately and seek medical help; the reaction can occur up to 48 hours after contact. MDARD gives a bit of background on the plant, which is native to Central Asia but has been in North America for a century, likely imported as an ornamental as "its size made it somewhat of an oddity" (the Battle Creek Enquirer reports it can hit 18 feet in height). And it has the ability to really take hold: One plant can give rise to an entire colony, and wiping out a colony can take a full 5 years due to seed and root regrowth. It's been found in at least 11 other states, including New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Oregon, and Wisconsin. (In other deadly plant news, this duchess is growing an entire poison garden.)

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