Va. Tech Freshman Treated for Giant Hogweed Burns

What is a giant hogweed

A Virginia teen suffered third degree burns and was treated at a hospital after he encountered an invasive, risky plant while on a landscaping job.

"The top layer of skin on the left side of his face basically was gone and appeared to be like a really bad burn that had already peeled", his father, Justin Childress, told the Times-Dispatch.

Alex Childress, 17, was working his landscaping job when he encountered the plant.

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.

Contact with the plant's sap, in combination with sun exposure, can lead to those extreme conditions.

Childress continued working through the pain and didn't realize the intensity of the burns until he returned home in the evening.

The teenager was first sent to Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, but doctors said he would be better treated at the Burn Center at VCU Medical Center. "I just don't say it because he's my kid, but he's one of the toughest kids that I've ever seen".

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Childress received a full-ride scholarship to Virginia Tech this fall, but due to his recent injuries he may have to defer his acceptance until he can get a medical waiver form his doctor. However, the teen's injuries may derail those plans.

"The plant in question was a toxic giant hogweed". It can grow up to 14 feet, deeply shading areas and inhibiting growth of native species.

The plant has a flowering head with tiny white flowers, with a hollow stem with a diameter of 2 inches to 4 inches.

Corey Childs, an extension agent in the northern Shenandoah Valley housed in Warren County, visited the Clarke County site Monday to collect Giant Hogweed samples for the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech.

Also, consider removing the plant at night since, according to Metzgar, the chemicals in the sap that burn you are activated by sunlight. There are multiple lookalike plants, the most common being cow parsnip.

The conservancy is asking people to document sightings of the invasive plant through apps such as iNaturalist, which helps scientists understand how the plants are spreading and identifies areas in which they need to be eradicated, he said.

If you find a Giant Hogweed near your home, it's important that you do not use a weed-whacker to remove it. Eradication should be done by physical removal or using herbicides such as glyphosate or triclopyr.

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