Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of this story misstated the location of the Staunton district and in which county the plant was sighted.
A huge weed that can cause third-degree burns and even blindness has been found in Virginia.
Officials in Isle of Wight County, in eastern Virginia near Norfolk and Newport News, posted a warning on Facebook about the invasive plant, which can grow to almost 15 feet.
The Virginia Department of Transportation also reported sightings of the Giant Hogweed in nearby Middlesex County and in Frederick County, which is part of the department's Staunton region, according to Richmond TV station WRIC.
Today I helped ID VA’s first giant hogweed population! Its sap causes severe burns. One plant was found in Clarke County. Report sightings to your extension agent! ID help: https://t.co/VMkYqyaccB Thanks to @herbariumkeeper and @VTAgWeeds for ID help and report! pic.twitter.com/4BM9RhyMem- VT Massey Herbarium (@MasseyHerbarium) June 12, 2018
Meanwhile, researchers at the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech last week said that the weed, which originated in Asia, had been seen in Clarke County, in the far north of the state, reported another Richmond TV station, WTVR.
Be careful if you encounter this invasive plant! The clear watery sap of Giant Hogweed contains toxins that can cause dermatitis (inflammation of the skin). It can cause burns if you get the sap on your skin and the skin is then exposed to sunlight. pic.twitter.com/zg2XB30gtN- Invading Species (@invspecies) June 14, 2018
According to the state's Department of Environmental Conservation, the plant can grow anywhere between 8 to 14 feet tall when it's flowering. If the plant is in bloom, the numerous white flowers will cluster into a flat-topped "umbrella."
Update: there are about 30 giant hogweed plants at the site. pic.twitter.com/6d4LDRJ5DE- VT Massey Herbarium (@MasseyHerbarium) June 13, 2018
The leaves can be up to five feet across and the stem, which contains a toxic sap, is hollow and rigid, and has purple blotches and coarse white hairs near its base.
Isle of Wight County officials say complications of contact with a Giant Hogweed include blisters as well as phytophotodermatitis, which occurs when the sap makes the skin so sensitive to sunlight that severe burns can occur from normal exposure to the sun, a condition that can last many years.
More alarmingly, if the sap gets into a person's eyes, there is the potential for blindness, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
Officials warn not to use a weed-whacker to remove the Giant Hogweed because its sap could splatter. Instead, the plant should either be pulled up using protective clothing or destroyed by use of herbicides.
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