Keep Your Plants to Yourself

Photo by steb1

Giant Hogweed

  • if you go to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s webpage on Giant Hogweed
  • it says “Do not touch this plant!” at the very top
  • a savvy tip for all those who want to avoid burning and scarring
  • woah
  • what?
  • it’s just a big old plant
  • yes, but it has some big old toxins too
  • this weed is federally listed as a noxious plant
  • the danger is in the sap in combination with sunlight
  • if you get hogweed sap on your skin and then expose that skin to the sun
  • you’ll be the proud sufferer of photodermatitis
  • this can cause blistering, scarring, and even blindness
  • if you’re lucky enough to get sapped in the eyes
  • don’t mess around with phototoxins
  • they’ll infiltrate your epithelial cells’ nuclei and kill you skin cells

Photo by Els Vanderpalen

  • it was originally introduced to the UK as an ornamental plant in the 19th century
  • and now hogweed covers the British Isles
  • it’s displacing natural flora
  • and altering ecosystems
  • a classic invasive species
  • now it’s spread to Belgium, France, Germany, and even the US
  • silly New York decided to introduce hogweed in 1917
  • and now little populations of toxic weed dot the states

We have more power than we think, powers that can come back to sting us in the eye, if you will. The Brits initially planted hogweed because it’s aesthetically pleasing, with no idea what the consequences would be. They likely had no idea how fast the plant could spread or the severity of its toxicity. This is the danger in manipulating our environment. Yes, the ability to change our surroundings is a keystone aspect of human life, but that great power comes with dangers we couldn’t perceive.

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