‘Nasty’ plant whose sap causes 3rd-degree burns could jump into Alberta, group warns – Calgary

It’s called giant hogweed and it doesn’t play nice with humans.

The elegant yet dangerous plant is just one of a number of invasive species that the Nature Conservancy of Canada wants Albertans to look out for this summer.

Giant hogweed is found in British Columbia, and there’s a risk it could find its way into Alberta.

Early detection could stop the plant from spreading across the border, said Kristyn Ferguson, the agency’s conservation scientist and a program director, on the Calgary Eyeopener.

“I encourage people if you do see it to report it … because if you don’t have it yet, you have a chance to get a hold of it before it becomes a big problem in Alberta,” Ferguson said.

Each giant hogweed plant produce tens of thousands of seeds, which can be carried by either the wind or water. Seeds dropped in water can float for up to three days, and on dry land, they’re viable for up to 15 years. (Meghan Grguric/University of Guelph)

Giant hogweed can grow to 4.5 metres tall and has a large, attractive looking white flower.

But it also has a toxic sap that can cause third-degree burns when exposed to sunlight and even blindness if it gets in the eyes.

“It’s a nasty one,” Ferguson said. 

Foreign invaders

There are already many invasive plant species threatening Alberta’s native natural habitats. 

Ferguson said most invasive species have been in Canada since the 1800s and were brought to the country by settlers either by accident or sometime on purpose.

Spotted knapweed is a prohibited noxious weed that aggressively colonizes pastureland. (Alberta Invasive Species Council )

“A lot of the nice looking invasive species were often brought over because someone thought ‘Wouldn’t that look great in my garden?'” Ferguson said. 

“Little did they know once it escaped it could be a big problem for natural spaces.”

Those species include:

  • Canada thistle.
  • Common tansy.
  • Spotted knapweed.
  • Leafy spurge.
  • Japanese knotweed.


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