This Plant Can Burn Your Skin With Its Sap—And It May Be Coming to Your Neighborhood

iStock
iStock

It's huge, it's extremely dangerous, and it's spreading. The giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) contains a corrosive sap that causes severe rashes, third-degree burns, and even permanent blindness if you get the photosensitive chemicals on your skin or in your eyes, Science Alert reports.

The noxious, invasive weed was just identified in Clarke County, Virginia, near the Massey Herbarium at Virginia Tech. That brings the number of states it's been spotted in to 11, including Washington, Oregon, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine. Beyond the U.S., it has taken root all over the world, from the UK to Iceland to Australia.

Similar to the common but slightly less dangerous cow parsnip, giant hogweed is native to Central Asia and was first brought to North America in the early 1990s as an ornamental plant, its unique shape making it popular among gardeners. But it soon became invasive: Once it’s established in an area, it can take up to five years to eradicate a colony.

Now the plant is considered a public health concern. Hogweed can cause a reaction known as phytophotodermatitis when it comes into contact with skin that is subsequently exposed to UV rays—but the effects of hogweed are much more severe. A painful blister can develop within hours and last for months; the exposed skin can remain sensitive to sunlight for years even after the blisters heal.

Hogweed can be difficult to distinguish from the cow parsnip, and the plant is often misidentified. First, check for height: Hogweeds are typically taller than 8 feet, while cow parsnip tends to be 5 to 8 feet tall. Hogweed stems are green with purple specks and coarse white hairs, while parsnip stems are green with fine white hairs. For more tips and photos, check out the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s guide.

If you see a plant you think might be a giant hogweed, take a few photos and send them to your state's department of agriculture to identify—and whatever you do, don't touch it.

[h/t Science Alert]

Watch: Rare ‘Ice Volcanoes’ Are Erupting on a Michigan Beach

ehrlif, iStock via Getty Images
ehrlif, iStock via Getty Images

Winter weather leads to all sorts of strange phenomena, from thundersnow to ice tsunamis. But these "ice volcanoes" recently documented on the shores of Lake Michigan are spectacular enough to impress even lifelong veterans of Great Lakes winters.

As News 18 reports, the Grand Rapids, Michigan, department of the National Weather Service shared images of the icy eruptions to its Facebook and Twitter pages on Sunday, February 16. They show geysers of water bursting forth from the tops of snowy mounds on Oval Beach. The scene looks like a bizarre version of a volcano spewing lava, but it's actually the natural result of the lake's tides.

CW50 Detroit reports no one is completely sure how these ice volcanoes form. But Live Science says ice shelves along the coast stop the waves of Lake Michigan from reaching the shore. As the tides move under the ice sheet, pressure builds, and with nowhere else to go, water breaks the ice and spurts through the opening. The water from each eruption freezes when it settles on the ice above the surface, and the ice layers build upon each other to form a cone shape. This is similar to how real volcanoes form, only instead of layers of water freezing into ice, it's molten lava hardening into rock.

There's no seismic activity going on when these ice volcanoes erupt: It's simply the lake's natural tide persisting in spite of freezing temperatures. But, like real volcanoes, they can be dangerous. The ice mounds are hollow and more fragile than the surrounding ice, so onlookers should appreciate them from afar. You can view the phenomenon from the safety of your home by watching the video below.

[h/t News 18]

These Eco-Friendly Bags Are Organic and Break Down in 18 Months or Less

A-Zero
A-Zero

If you’re looking to cut down on the amount of single-use plastics in your life, then reach for these fully compostable organic bags.

The A-Zero bags (which are available on Kickstarter here) may look a lot like their plastic counterparts, but they’re actually made from vegetable starch. According to the campaign, these totes are 100 percent organic, are harmless to nature, and can break down in a matter of 18 months—unlike plastic bags, which take hundreds of years. Each bag also features unique designs created by different artists from all over the world.

When it comes to sizes, you have a few different options. The smallest bag, ideal for snacks and sandwiches, is leak-proof and freezer-friendly, and can even be used in the microwave. A-Zero also makes leak-proof trash bags, grocery bags that can hold up to 18 pounds of food, and a refillable bag dispenser that can hold 20 or more grocery bags and can clip onto a backpack or purse.

You might be thinking that you already have a reusable tote at home, but unfortunately, these also have a detrimental effects on the environment. A 2011 British government study [PDF] estimated that with all the water and energy it takes to create a cotton bag, each one has a carbon footprint of 598.6 pounds of CO2, compared to a plastic bag’s 3.48 pounds.

With $22,522 raised, A-Zero bags already surpassed its original $8000 goal. But you can still help bring the project to life and get your own eco-friendly bags by heading here. Pledge tiers start at $29, and the campaign will be live until April 11.

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