The giant plant with a white flower, spotted in Willoughby, is giant hogweed — a potentially dangerous plant which, in certain circumstances, can cause blindness.

The giant plant with a white flower, spotted in Willoughby, is giant hogweed — a potentially dangerous plant which, in certain circumstances, can cause blindness.

Giant weed can be dangerous

Giant hogweed has been spotted in numerous Langley locations, and it can be dangerous.

Giant hogweed is popping up in parts of Langley, with the latest sighting in the 21000 block of 77A Avenue in Willoughby. This has prompted a warning to be careful around the extremely dangerous weed.

The Township of Langley is aware of giant hogweed and is working to remove the plant from public lands, as well as training staff to identify and safely manage equipment around it.

Langley Environmental Partners Society (LEPS) has begun an awareness campaign, recently sending out around 50 letters to homeowners with hogweed on their property. These were spotted by LEPS staff, said executive director Nichole Marples.

Most of the plants in Langley are on private property and plants don’t have any qualms about sending a few seeds over neighbouring fences, she said.

Although hogweed isn’t prevalent in Langley, there are individual patches scattered all over, said LEPS’ Lisa Dreves, who helps rid Langley of the plant.

There is a ground zero, so to speak, centred around the intersection of Fraser Hwy and 232 Street, she said.

Giant hogweed is a very extraordinary looking plant that can grow up to 20 feet tall. It was originally introduced to the Lower Mainland as an ornamental garden plant from the Caucasus mountains in west central Asia. Unfortunately, giant hogweed is more than just extraordinary looking, it is also extraordinarily dangerous, said Dreves.

“The highly toxic sap from the plant causes severe skin dermatitis of large blisters or rashes when contacted skin is exposed to light. Worse yet, if the sap enters your eyes it can cause temporary or permanent blindness.

“One big problem is that the plant doesn’t appear harmful, and the sap doesn’t sting or hurt when it comes in contact with skin, until the skin is exposed to sunlight.”

Children have been known to play with these plants because of their hollow stems which one Burnaby boy used as a telescope, causing him to go blind. Adults may cut down or mow over the plants to control them. Hours later children and adults find themselves covered in painful blisters and they don’t know why, said Dreves.

One Aldergrove woman had horrible blisters and went to her doctor not having a clue where they came from. She had been clearing her front property and had knocked down some hogweed without knowing it, said Marples.

Anyone that comes into contact with hogweed sap should seek medical advice immediately.

The weed can produce 50,000 to 100,000 winged seeds that can float for three days before becoming water logged and sinking. Seeds can remain viable in the soil for up to 15 years.

Control of these plants while they are still small is very effective but still must be done with the utmost care, since even the small plants have sap, warns Dreves.

“Use of weed whackers or other power equipment is not recommended since the plants will spray the sap over you and anyone working close to you.”

Heavy gloves, water resistant coveralls, and goggles must be worn when controlling giant hogweed.

“The best thing to do is put that plant in a black plastic bag and throw it away with the garbage,” said Marples.

LEPS can be contracted to do fee-for-service work to control giant hogweed on private properties, however it will only undertake this work while the plants are under one metre in height, due to the risks involved.

If you know of a location of giant hogweed in the Township of Langley call 604-533-6090 Ext.2550.

To contact LEPS about control on your property, call Lisa at 604-532-3517 or

Langley Times

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