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Mysterious burns on teen's face caused by brush with toxic plant

16 July 2018

He was transferred to the burn unit at VCU Medical Center.

Somehow this was relatively fortunate for Childress, as Giant Hogweed sap can cause much worse, including permanent blindness. Unbeknownst to Alex, the plant was giant hogweed, a weed sometimes called the "plant from hell".

The run-in with the risky plant in the commonwealth has plant experts reminding people of the dangers of giant hogweed and giving guidance on what to do if one is found.

When Childress first noticed his skin hurting, he thought he had just gotten a sunburn, though his parents suspected otherwise and took him to a hospital.

But what is Giant Hogweed, besides the actual version of "The Devil's Lettuce"?

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As it turned out, the teen had developed second- and third-degree burns all over his face and arms from the hogweed sap.

"Alex continued working throughout the day once he got it on his face". Though he's set to recover, it could be a frustratingly long process.

"I did have the sap on me, but if you wash it away quickly it's more like poison ivy", Childress said.

Prolonged exposure to giant hogweed sap makes the skin increasingly sensitive to sunlight, inhibiting the body's natural defense against harmful ultraviolet rays.

Native to central Asia, the white-flowered plant has invaded Northern Virginia and was first spotted there in June, the Inquisitr previously reported.

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Jordan Metzgar, curator at the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech, told the Times-Dispatch that giant hogweed have been spotted around Virginia, adding that the plant was not spreading like in NY and other Northern states.

According to Wikipedia, Heracleum mantegazzianum, or Giant Hogweed plant - which is also known as cartwheel-flower, giant cow parsnip, hogsbane, or giant cow parsley and not, somehow, as "The Burning Bush" - is a phototoxic plant and considered a noxious weed in the United States that, for unknown but presumably very stupid reasons, became a common ornamental plant in Britain in the 19th Century. One plant can produce thousands of seeds and they can stay in the ground for years before germinating. These days, the Giant Hogweed has been identified in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

The conservancy is asking people to document sightings of the invasive plant through apps such as iNaturalist, which helps scientists understand how the plants are spreading and identifies areas in which they need to be eradicated, he said.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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Mysterious burns on teen's face caused by brush with toxic plant