A 17-year-old incoming Virginia Tech freshman was released from the hospital Thursday after treatment of burns to his face and arm from the sap of a giant hogweed plant, a highly noxious weed originating from Asia.
Alex Childress, who lives in the Fredericksburg area, suffered the second- and third-degree burns after the plant touched his body when he discarded it while on a summer landscaping summer job, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.
"The top layer of skin on the left side of his face basically was gone and appeared to be like a really bad burn that had already peeled," Jason Childress said in describing his son's condition.
Sap from the plant can cause burns, blisters and blindness.
Alex Childress was released Thursday from the burn unit at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center after intensive treatment for exposure to the plant, according to the Times-Dispatch.
According to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, giant hogweed stands often 6 feet to 9 feet, though it can grow to 15 feet.
The plant has a flowering head with tiny white flowers, with a hollow stem with a diameter of 2 inches to 4 inches.
In Virginia, giant hogweed is classified as a Tier 1 noxious weed, requiring that "no person shall move, transport, deliver, ship, or offer for shipment into or within the Commonwealth any noxious weed" without a permit.
Jordan Metzgar, curator at the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech, told the Times-Dispatch that giant hogweed have been spotted around Virginia, adding that the plant was not spreading like in New York and other Northern states.
He said the samples he had observed were most likely planted over the years, often for decorative or ornamental purposes.
Virginia's warmer climate most likely has prevented the plant from rapidly reproducing, Metzgar told the Times-Dispatch.
"In Virginia, it doesn’t seem to be spreading at all."
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