WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A teenager from Virginia suffered second to third-degree burns when he came into contact with a Giant Hogweed plant.
- The Department of Agriculture listed the Giant Hogweed as a deadly toxic plant that is in the “noxious weeds” list.
- The skin on 17-year-old Alex Childress’ face peeled off after sap from this plant splattered on his face.
Alex Childress was on a summer landscaping job Tuesday, clearing vegetation near Spotsylvania when he suddenly feels a burning sensation on his face. Initially, he thought the irritation was caused by severe sunburn.
Justin, Alex’s father, said they later found out that his burn was caused by the sap of the Giant Hogweed plant.
“Alex continued working throughout the day once he got it on his face. When he got home he got into the shower and the skin on his face was basically peeling away and peeling off,” Justin said.
The teen was first taken to Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, but after doctors checked the extent of his injuries, transferred him to the Burn Center at the VCU Medical Center for treatment.
Giant Hogweed is a deadly toxic plant that is in the “noxious weeds” list of the Department of Agriculture. It is part of the carrot family but can grow up to 14 feet tall and is easily mistaken for other harmless plants like Queen Anne’s Lace and Cow Parsnip.
The invasive plant produces sap that contains toxic chemicals. The sap itself does not cause any direct damage to the skin. But when the human skin is soaked with sap and exposed to the sun, a toxic reaction begins within 15 minutes after contact.
It starts with skin irritation leading to painful blisters forming within 48 hours. If the sap gets into the eyes, it can cause blindness and long-term sensitivity to sunlight, according to the Massey herbarium at Virginia Tech. Not only does the plant cause harm to the skin, but it also endangers the environment by hindering the growth of native species.
“It’s a traumatic experience, but Alex is a tough kid,” Justin said. “I just don’t say it because he’s my kid, but he’s one of the toughest kids that I’ve ever seen.”
Alex’s plans of enrolling in the Corp of Cadets this August after winning a scholarship from Virginia Tech have to be postponed until he recovers from his injuries.
The Childress family hoped that people may learn from their son’s experience and that they be on the lookout for this plant and report any sightings when they come across it.