When I think of perennial plants what comes to mind is usually tulips, salvia or hostas. Essentially everything you'd normally see in someone's garden.
A perennial is a plant that returns every year after winter, without needing to be replanted. They're very hearty plants that can survive our harsh winters and have no trouble blooming again once spring comes around.
But Canada, unfortunately, has a very dangerous perennial that is about to start blooming again and if you're planning on spending any time in the great outdoors this summer, you'd better take note.
Here's everything you need to know about Giant Hogweed, including what it looks like, where to spot it, and most importantly how to avoid letting it cause 3rd-degree burns or blindness for you or anyone else you know.
Giant Hogweed blooms in June and has the ability to reach heights of 5 metres, according to The Weather Network.
Nature Conservancy Canada warns that it can post a serious health hazard for humans if they come into contact with its clear, watery sap.
When UV rays from the sun come into contact with the sap on human skin, the result is "severe burns and weeping blisters," according to Nature Conservancy Canada.
The plant poses more danger still if it's sap comes into contact with people's eyes, as the sap has the ability to cause blindness.
According to the Government of Quebec, Giant Hogweed has the ability to spread extremely quickly, thus its classification as an "invasive species."
Here are all the areas that Giant Hogweed has managed to spread and be spotted in Quebec:
- Mauricie et Centre-du-Québec
The Government of Quebec also notes the areas that Giant Hogweed is commonly found:
- Along river banks
- Along ditches
- Along railway tracks
- Along roadsides
- In meadows
- In vacant lots
To identify the plant, look for the following attributes:
- 2-5 metre height
- Leaves between 1.5 metres in width and 3 metres in length
- Small white flowers that look much like Queen Anne's Lace
- Flowers on a single stem that form clusters
- Flower clusters (called "umbels") that are 25 to 50 cm in diameter
- A hollow stem that is 4 to 10 cm in diameter and very strong
- The stem is covered with "rough white hairs scattered all over the stem, particularly at the base of the leaf
- Stem with reddish-purple blotches
The Government of Quebec website provides photographs of each section of the plant for identification purposes. However, if you think you've come into contact the plant, don't be flipping over the leaves to see for sure!
If you think you've come into contact with the sap, use a paper towel to wipe the sap off your skin, without too much rubbing
Rinse your skin with soap and water and wash hands well. Remove any clothing you were wearing when the contact happened.
Avoid any sunlight exposure, as this is what activates the toxins in the sap. Do so by wearing clothing to cover yourself from any (real or artificial) UV rays - gloves, long sleeves, etc.
You can also use SPF to protect yourself from UV rays after contact, and the Government of Quebec suggests doing so for at least 6 months following contact.