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Tier 1 noxious weed Giant hogweed detected in Va. - Why you should care and what to do!

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has confirmed the presence of Giant hogweed, Heracleum mantegazzianum, in Clarke County (east of Winchester). The Giant hogweed was planted at the site by a previous homeowner for ornamental purposes. VDACS employees are working with the homeowner in an effort to eradicate the weed from the Clarke County site.

Giant hogweed is a Tier 1 noxious weed on VDACS’ Noxious Weed List. A Tier 1 classification means the weed was previously unknown in the Commonwealth. The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) lists Giant hogweed as an early detection invasive plant, which means it is not established in Virginia and if found, the goal is to eradicate it before it becomes established.

When exposed to skin, the sap from a Giant hogweed plant can cause severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering and permanent scarring. The plant is easily confused with other look alike plants such as elderberry and cow parsnip. People who think they have found Giant hogweed should take a digital photo of the leaf, stem and flower. They can report it to the local office of Virginia Cooperative Extension or file an online report here.

Giant hogweed is a very distinct plant when set against Virginia landscapes and although it has some similar characteristics as cow parsnip, angelica and Queen Anne’s lace, its size sets it apart. It can grow upwards of 15 feet tall with leaves as large as five feet across. The white flower cluster can contain 50 – 150 flower rays spreading up to two feet across.

Invasive species are a problem that can cause harm to natural resources, economic activity and humans. Information is available here to learn more about invasive species in Virginia and the ways to prevent spread. People also may contact the VDACS Office of Plant Industry Services at 804-786-3515 or Kevin Heffernan at Department of Conversation and Recreation at 804-786-9112.

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