Not kudzu, but a more toxic and invasive species of plant earns Blowing Rock regional attention

Not kudzu, but a more toxic and invasive species of plant earns Blowing Rock regional attention
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By David Rogers. July 5, 2018. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Beauty may well be in the eye of the beholder, but when it comes to Giant Hogweed, no garden is sacred ground anymore.

Cover photographic image courtesy of Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heracleum_mantegazzianum

A Chattanooga, Tennessee-based television station reported in June that the closest sighting of the highly poisonous giant hogweed species was five hours away, near Blowing Rock. As a consequence of it being so near the NC-TN border, the U.S. Department of Agriculture office in Clinton, TN has identified Giant Hogweed as a threat to Davy Crockett’s home state.

It’s unlikely, however, that either Crockett or other frontiersmen like Daniel Boone ever had to worry about encountering Giant Hogweed, which can burn and even blind those who come in contact, according to numerous published reports, because of its phototoxicity.

According to Wikipedia, the plant is native to the Caucasus and Central Asia regions, including parts of Russia, Georgia (the country), Armenia, and Azerbaijan. It spread to parts of Europe, particularly England, as well as the United States and Canada because some people looked at it as an attractive ornamental plant and imported it, not knowing that it is a highly invasive species and poisonous or toxic to many people.

Giant hogweed can grow to more than 18 feet tall.

The giant hogweed “bloom”. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The sighting “in Blowing Rock” (mentioned by the Chattanooga TV station) is actually well to the west, a couple of miles west of the Holloway Mountain Rd. intersection with U.S. 221, and very much under control by the Agricultural Extension Service for at least the past eight years, Blowing Rock was told in an interview with an agent.

“We pretty much eradicated it a few years ago,” he said, “but it is pretty persistent. A few times a year we go to that spot and spray any new plants, to kill them and keep them from spreading.”

Giant hogweed was introduced to Britain in the 19th century as an ornamental plant and arrived in New York around 1917, according to accounts in Wikipedia. In Canada, the plant has been sighted in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Ontario and New Brunswick. While most prevalent in New York, in the U.S. it has been found in mostly eastern states such as Maryland and more recently in Virginia and North Carolina, but also as far west as Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana.

Giant hogweed grows in dense patches that allows it to crowd out other species, as well as take out natural habitat for native species of animals. It has been seen to grow as high more than 18 feet tall. It is characterized as having a “…stout, bright green stem that is frequently spotted with dark red and hollow red-spotted leaf stalks that produce sturdy bristles.”

Anyone who comes in contact with or spots giant hogweed should contact their local Agricultural Extension Service office. In Boone, the office is at 971 W. King St., Boone. Phone: 828-264-3061.

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