Wisconsin faces a new challenge as a giant invasive plant appeared in the southeastern part of the state. The more serious issue is that the plant has toxic sap that affects human skin.
The Department of Natural Resources confirmed that hundreds of hogweed plants appeared in Sheboygan.
The Toxic Invasive Plant
Heracleum mantegazzianum is originating from Eurasia, its initial habitat being limited to the Caucasian area and Central Asia. In 1917, the plant was brought as an ornamental plant in the UK and the US.
The hogweed can grow 20 feet high, and it has leaves as long as 3 feet. It reaches maturity very fast and prefers forest edges, empty lots, and roadsides. One single plant can produce thousands of seeds that are carried away by animals and flowing water.
The plant reaches maturity in its second year when it flowers and forms the seed. After that, the giant hogweed dies and leaves behind long dead stems that can be observed even during winter.
However, humans are responsible for bringing the plant from one place to another, as they are attracted by its majestic side and want to have it in their gardens.
The invasive plant can suffocate native species. Its sap composition includes glucosides that can cause severe burns to the skin and even temporary blindness as it reacts to sunlight and ultraviolet rays.
Authorities recommend children to stay away from the giant hogweed. People trying to handle it should wear protective clothing. In case the skin is exposed to the plant’s sap, it should be washed with soap and water, and the exposed skin should be kept away from the sun for several days.
Giant Hogweed Control
Up until now, the giant hogweed had been spotted in Michigan, Maine, New York, Illinois, Oregon, and Washington. In Wisconsin it was first reported in 2004, and when its presence had been confirmed in three counties.
Experts say that the authorities believe that the invasive plant will be difficult to keep under control, and this is the reason for which they listed it as prohibited.
For example, in 2011 Maine biologists reported no more than 21 different locations invaded by the plant, each place fostering up to a hundred sprouts.
The giant hogweed is listed as a prohibited species. The DNR can obtain a court order that will allow the officials to eradicate it.
Recently, a team from Applied Ecological Services sprayed herbicides on more than 800 plants situated in Sheboygan. The neighbors say that the plants appeared years ago, and they were impressed with their size.
Image Source: Flickr