Toxic Plants Pop Up in Mid-Michigan

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When Kim Huguelet admired her sister's huge plant in the front yard, she decided she wanted one, too.

"We liked it, it looked tropical," Huguelet said.

Little did they know the impressive plant can cause depressing damage. It's called Giant Hogweed, and it's extremely toxic. Simply touching it could make you go blind. After a simple internet search, the decision was clear.

"So we just said, it's gotta go now!" Huguelet said.

She called experts at Michigan State University who needed hazmat gear to dispose of the 10-foot-tall Hogweed right next to her porch. The 5-foot-long leaves are covered in little hairs of toxic sap.

"The public needs to understand that this is not like having a plant that if it gets out of control it lowers someone's yield of sugar beets or something," said Michigan State University Toxic Plant Expert Peter Carrington. "This is really a toxic hazard for family and loved ones."

Huguelet said she was concerned for her grandchildren who often play outside at their house. They were never hurt, but kids and pets are especially at risk because it's so easy to be exposed. All it takes is brushing against it, exposing that skin to sunlight and some type of wetness, like sweat or rain.

"This produces a rather disfiguring, unsightly, fluid-filled vesicles of blisters, which unfortunately also pigment the skin," Carrington said.

He said it looks and feels like the effects of leaving your arm on a hot stove. It takes months to clear up, and there are usually scars. Clinical steroids can help, but it's no walk in the park.

"Modern treatment of this is not as great and efficacious as treatment for poison ivy is," Carrington said.

It doesn't always take a hazmat team to kill the plant. Carrington said Round Up works, but you just have to keep an eye on things each season.

"Once they get started, they do have to be followed," Carrington said.

There has been a Hogweed eradication effort in Michigan recently, but Carrington said there have been sightings in Jackson. He's even heard of people selling the seeds in Lansing, and that's prohibited. Knowingly selling or planting Giant Hogweed is recipe for a federal fine.

If anyone has seen these monsters or even has one in their own yard, you're encouraged to call the Michigan Department of Agriculture or the Michigan Invasive Plant Council.

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