NORTH CAROLINA (WBTV) - Health officials have advised North Carolina residents about the presence of a dangerous plant that can cause third-degree burns and blindness.
According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, giant hogweed, or Heracleum mantegazzianum, is a federally listed noxious weed that can cause severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, permanent scarring and blindness.
According to North Carolina State University, giant hogweed is a Class "A" North Carolina noxious weed and is only found in Watauga County.
Extension Agent Minda Daughtry says the plant was discovered in 2010, and has been found in six unique sites around Blowing Rock.
The hogweed plant can grow up to 14 feet or more, has hollow, ridged stems that grow 2-4 inches in diameter and have dark reddish-purple blotches.
The plant has large compound leaves that can grow up to 5 feet wide and white flower heads that can grow up to 2 1/2 feet in diameter. You can visit the NYDEC website for further identification tips.
Officials advised people not to touch the plant at all, which includes brushing against the bristles on the stem or breaking the stem or leaves.
In July of 2018, a teen in Virginia was rushed to the hospital after he said he was working at his summer landscaping job when he came in contact with the plant.
Giant Hogweed has also been found in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Washington, New York, Maryland, Oregon, Michigan, Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
The NYDEC also offers advice on how to control giant hogweed as the toxic plant can be controlled manually, mechanically, and with herbicides.
According to the North Carolina Sandhills Early Detection and Rapid Response System for Invasive Plants, the plant is regulated as a state noxious weed in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, and Washington.