"Giant Hogweed" sounds like a mythical plant that the students of Hogwarts may study, but it's real -- and it's dangerous. The plant grows in the wild and touching it can cause third-degree burns and even blindness. Giant hogweed was recently spotted in Virginia for the first time and may also grow in other states. Warnings have been issued in previous years after discoveries in Michigan, New York and elsewhere in the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest.
The latest confirmed sighting of giant hogweed came in Clarke County, Virginia. It was identified by researchers at the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech, who say there are about 30 plants in the area.
Giant hogweed is part of the carrot family, and for a toxic plant, it is surprisingly pretty. It can grow up to 14 feet tall, with thick leaves stretching two to five feet across and large clusters of white flowers gracing the top of the plant in an umbrella pattern. The spray of white flowers looks similar to Queen Anne's Lace, but the experts at Massey Herbarium note that giant hogweed is much larger, with chunkier leaves.
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