A plant considered ornamental turned out to be a real enemy to humans, as touching it can leave you with third-degree burns. The giant hogweed with white blossoms and tall stems might look pretty in a garden, but researchers have just discovered how dangerous it is to have it touch your skin.
Giant hogweed started as an ornamental plant
The first ones who started cultivating giant hogweed were the English, but Americans quickly followed their example 100 years ago. This plant is easily recognizable after its white flowers that gather in numerous bouquets on 14-feet-tall stems. Given its ornamental status, it easily spread across several states, but people quickly realized it was actually really dangerous.
Giant hogweed, scientifically called Heracleum mantegazzianum, has a phototoxic sap. This means that, if the sap touches your skin and you expose it to light, you will suffer some severe adverse reactions. The place will turn into a rash, as you’ll quickly develop oozing blisters. If the sap gets into your eyes, you might go blind.
Giant hogweed has started spreading excessively over the past decades
The situation can easily become critical, according to the researchers. They have noticed how, over the past 20 years, giant hogweed has started spreading a lot more rapidly. This happens because only one plant can produce up to 20,000 seeds in a year that spread through all kinds of means. In even, even humans may carry them.
However, giant hogweed didn’t go on a growing spree as soon as it got established in the US. Its invasiveness only started several decades later, which is really interesting. Scientists couldn’t explain the phenomenon, but they have a few suggestions. It might be that only now did they get adapted to the new environment. Or, another culprit might be climate change for it.
Image source: Pixabay