Invasive plant that causes burns, blindness found in Virginia

Giant Hogweed can grow between 7 and 14 feet tall, depending upon growth stage and if mowed or cut (VT Massey Herbarium)

ISLE OF WIGHT, Va. (WSET) -- An invasive plant that can cause third-degree burns and permanent blindness has been found in Virginia.

Researchers with the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech said contact with Giant Hogweed's sap, in combination with sun exposure, can lead to the extreme conditions.

The plant was found in Clarke County, researchers said, and experts are currently investigating potential sightings in other parts of the state.

According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, the plant's sap can cause painful blisters and, if it gets in contact with your eyes, it could cause you to go blind.

Not only does the plant pose a threat to you, but it can also impact the environment.

It can grow up to 14 feet, deeply shading areas and inhibiting growth of native species, experts said.

The plant’s hollow stems are generally two to four inches in diameter, with dark purple and red raised spots and bristle-like hairs, and the umbrella-shaped white floral blooms grow up to two-and-a-half feet wide.

The plant can easily be mistaken for other harmless plants, such as Queen Anne’s Lace and Cow Parsnip.

Researchers are asking you to report any sightings of the plant here.

To remove the plant, experts say to not use a weed-whacker, which would cause the plant's sap to splatter and spread.

Instead, they said to use herbicides such as glyphosate or triclopyr.

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