Giant hogweed plant burns unsuspecting teen landscaper

Alex Childress

Alex Childress

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said last month the unsafe hogweed plant was spotted at a private home, and researchers have said the plant is not spreading across the commonwealth widely, according to WWBT.

If you have to get involved yourself, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) advises that you wear gloves, cover your arms and legs, and ideally wear a face mask when working on or near it.

A Spotsylvania teen is recovering at VCU Medical Center's Evans-Haynes Burn Center after coming into contact with Giant Hogweed. He kept working because he did not realize what it was, he said. It turned out to be a giant hogweed whose sap can cause burns, blisters and blindness. "I didn't pay any mind to it because I do it all the time".

"It's a traumatic experience, but Alex is a tough kid", his father said. "My mom said I had third-degree burns on my face and arms".

Childress was taken to Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, but was then transported to the burn center at VCU in order to get proper treatment for his burns.

The plant looks like a flower with a white bloom on top, but it's the clear watery sap containing photosynthesizing agents that makes it so unsafe. But he says most reports have been unfounded. "I'm feeling better", he told WWBT. "Standing in the shower and having the water run over an open wound kind of hurts".

Corey Childs, an extension agent in the northern Shenandoah Valley housed in Warren County, visited the Clarke County site Monday to collect Giant Hogweed samples for the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech. Childress was discharged from the hospital on Thursday. "I'm hoping that scholarship will still be available for me". The invasive plant, which was first spotted in the U.S.in 1917, produces toxic sap that can cause severe irritation when skin is exposed to sunlight.

According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, giant hogweed stands often 6 feet to 9 feet, though it can grow to 15 feet.

Alex Childress, 17, encountered the giant hogweed while on a landscaping job and is being treated in hospital.

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