Hogweed can cause blindness

Q. We heard that giant hogweed is in the area. Can you tell us more info? Can you ID our plant?

Tim from Greenford

A. The sample Tim brought to the office was not hogweed, but Angelica atropurpurea L. (Angelica). Angelica is actually native to our area, but looks very much like the invasive, toxic hogweed. We are on the lookout for hogweed and are giving control options if it is, in fact, found. Thus far, we have not found any patches in Mahoning County. Most of the populations found in Ohio have been in Ashtabula County.

So here’s what you need to know to be on the lookout for hogweed.

It is very large. It was planted in gardens because of its enormous size, many times over 10 feet tall. It has beautiful, large, white compound blooms which form a flat top and look like a white umbrella because they are up to 2 1/2 feet across.

But this beauty is a human health hazard and a noxious weed on the Ohio and federal noxious weed lists. It is bad not only because it can crowd out our native plants, but the sap from this plant can cause severe burns on the skin.

Giant hogweed is easily confused with other plants in the same family. It is in the carrot family (sometimes called the parsley family.) That family includes Angelica. The only way to be sure is to call our office for identification. Pictures are best. Samples would be great, but protective eyewear and clothing should be worn when around this plant. The sap from giant hogweed makes our skin highly sensitive to ultraviolet light, causing swelling and blistering. Some cases of interaction with the plant have caused blindness.

Our OSU Extension factsheet has all of the details and a list of plants commonly confused with hogweed. Read more at: http://go.osu.edu/hogweed.

Eric Barrett is the Ohio State University Extension Educator for Agriculture and Natural Resources in Mahoning County. Call the hotline at the office on Mondays at Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon to submit your questions.

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