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Growing Season host talks giant hogweed and similar dangerous plants in area

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Moose FM spoke with a horticulture expert to learn how to safely deal with an invasive plant species that can seriously injure people if they aren’t careful.

Matt McFarland, the host of the Growing Season podcast, says a plant called “giant hogweed” that can grow in much of rural Ontario during the spring and summer can cause serious burns to people who touch its sap.

“It’s a super large invasive plant,” McFarland says. “The problem being, if you come in contact with it, it actually causes some sort of a photodermatitis, which basically makes the area that you’ve come in contact with super sensitive to the sun.”

He says after you come in contact with the plant, also sometimes called “cow parsnip,” you have roughly fifteen minutes before you need medical attention.

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According to McFarland, the plants can grow as high as fourteen feet tall. “It’s basically tree height,” he adds.

If you see the plant growing on your property, McFarland recommends you contact Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry so trained professionals can deal with it. 

“When they come in to do it,” he says, “they’re usually in some manner of [hazardous material] suit, fully gloved up, and they put it in plastic bags, and then they leave it in the plastic bags in the sun. The sun bakes the actual material inside the plastic bags, and that’s how they kill it.”

McFarland is also urging people to avoid dealing with giant hogweed by themselves. In particular, he says burning the plant is dangerous.

“That sap turns into an oil, and you can breathe it in,” McFarland explains. “Very similar to poison ivy.” 

If you’re interested in hearing more from McFarland, you can listen to episodes of his podcast, the Growing Season, every Sunday at 8:00 AM on Moose FM.

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