Nature has made everything in this world with some or other kind of defence mechanism. Not just animals, but plants also have some kind of defence against intruders. Some have size on their side or some have smell on their side. Some have even developed mechanisms to trap and eat small insects.
Nature also gives some kind of a warning sign to us that species plants and animals are harmful to us. Brightly colored animals are mostly harmful and so are some brightly colored plants which can cause harm to us on a serious level.
One such plant is the giant Hogweed, which has a very unique defence mechanism to save itself from potential harmful predators. This mechanism is also very harmful for us in a very painful way. Read on to find out how.
1 The plant looks beautiful
This potentially harmless looking plant was introduced to Britain in the 19th century. Hogweed is primarily native to Central Asia and Caucasus region. The plants were introduced in Britain as ornamental plants used for decoration.
Slowly the plant gained access to North America and Europe. It was introduced in New York in 1917 and is listed as noxious weed in many US states. Giant Hogweed is also classified as one of the most invasive species of plant in nature.
2 The dangerously harmful mechanism
But these plants are causing a lot of discomfort to residents of United Kingdom. The issue is that the plant’s pod and sapling contains photo-toxic chemicals. When a person touches these plants, these chemicals are secreted as a defence mechanism. These chemicals when come in touch with human skin, react to make the skin hyper sensitive to sunlight.
Chemicals called Furocoumarin compounds in the sap lead to painful, blistering burns, and the reaction can be long-lasting, so victims have to keep affected areas out of the sun for years. So many people have been affected by this plant that is has been made illegal for people to grow these plants and they carry a fine of 5,000 pounds and imprisonment up to 2 years.
3 History of the plant
Giant hogweed, known by its scientific name of Heracleum mantegazzianum, can grow up to 16ft high. Hogweed is a member of the Apiaceous family, which includes carrots, parsnips and celery. But unlike its tasty cousins, it contains a powerful toxin.
The plant was brought in England in 1893 by Victorian plant hunter from the mountains of Central Asia to be sold as ornamental plants. The plant escaped to wild and according to the Botanical society of British Isles, the plant has spread into neighbouring countries like Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
4 The result of chemical reaction
As a result, the skin loses its ability to withstand the radiation from UV rays of the sun. This causes burns and blisters on the skin akin to 3rd degree burn damage.
The inflammation on the skin starts to spread along with immense pain. The blisters fill with fluid further putting pressure on the skin and eventually they burst. There is also chance of permanent scars being left on the affected areas.
5 Further damage
If you touch a hogweed sap, never let any kind of contact come between the sap and the eyes. The hogweed sap can cause temporary and even permanent blindness if it comes in contact of eyes.
The hogweed sap causes severe irritation in the eyes and it can cause severe damage to the corneas. Immediately wash the affected area with soap and water (just water of the area is eyes). After doing so, seek medical help to prevent any long term effects.