Last week I began hearing these horror stories of a plant that grows 15 feet high with flowers the size of umbrellas that ooze a toxic sap. I shrugged it off as some type of marketing campaign from the makers of Harry Potter, mainly because the name of said plant is hogweed.

Unfortunately, I was wrong. Hogweed is very real and has been spreading.

So far the plant has been sprouting up around Western and Central New York so far and park officials have their work cut out for them, locating and eradicating the weed. Normally weeds can grow wild in New York with little or no issue but the hogweed has proved to be toxic as you can see from the image.

Just brushing up against hogweed’s bristles on the stem or by touching a broken stem or leaf could cause a painful outcome for you. The plant’s sap contains a nasty substance called psoralen which makes your skin photosensitive. Once exposed to the sun you can develop severe burns, blistering, painful sores and purplish or blackened scars. The scariest part however may be that if the sap gets into your eyes, you could go blind. A very real possibility since the plant is 15 feet high.

With your UV defenses down, the chances of getting skin cancer dramatically increase. If you do some in contact with this plant seek medical treatment and avoid exposure to the sun. Take a look at the plant below and if you see it, call your local parks department to remove it. You can find more information on hogweed at the DEC website. And you should also check out our Five Best safe sunscreen picks.