Giant hogweed is an invasive species native to Eurasia, and was introduced to Britain as a decorative plant sometime in the 19th century. Since then, it has spread to other areas across Western Europe, the United States, and parts of Canada. it has been recorded in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia, and appears to be spreading.
Every summer, unsuspecting Canadians come across the weed and make the mistake of coming into contact with it. Unfortunately for them, the giant hogweed has what is known as a phototoxic plant.
This means that coming into contact with the plant will prevent your own skin from being able to protect itself from the sunlight, which leads to serious skin inflammation, burns, and blisters, beginning as quickly as 15 minutes after initial contact.
The plant can be found across Canada’s provinces, with no reports of it being found in any territories.
For a step-by-step guide on how to identify hog weed, click here.
The giant hogweed is deceptive because it shares a similar physical resemblance to wild parsnip, or another flower called Queen Anne’s Lace, which are both harmless.
Experts say that all humans should stay away from the plant, and that protective clothing, including eye protection, should be worn when handling the plant. Dogs and other pets are also prone to burns on the face and eyes, though pets with thicker fur will be at lower risk of any burning. If you come into contact with the sap, immediately wash the affected area with soap and cold water and avoid further exposure to sunlight for at least 48 hours.
Authorities advise that all humans (especially children) should stay away from giant hogweed. Protective clothing, including eye protection, should be worn when handling the plant. If you come in contact with the sap of the giant hogweed.
While reports in Canada have been low, an Ontario woman was told in 2014 that she would have to avoid direct sunlight for three years after being badly burned by a plant in the same family as the giant hodweed.
If you think you have been burned by giant hogweed, see a physician immediately.