August 9, 2010
For immediate release
Giant Hogweed Confirmed in PEI
Environment, Energy & Forestry
“Media reports have resulted in numerous calls to our office from people believing they have seen Giant Hogweed in Prince Edward Island,” said Director of Forests, Fish and Wildlife, Kate MacQuarrie. “Of the many calls received, only one has turned out to be Giant Hogweed.”
MacQuarrie said that Prince Edward Island does have Cow Parsnip, a plant that looks very similar to Giant Hogweed and can grow to heights of six feet or more. Cow Parsnip is common along streams and some sections of the Confederation Trail. One main difference is that Giant Hogweed has raised red or purple spots on the stem, with stiff white bristles. Cow Parsnip stems do not have stiff bristles; its stem can have a bit of purple but is mostly green with no raised spots.
Consistent with the mainland findings, the Prince Edward Island Giant Hogweed was found near gardens and is not believed to have spread into the wild. Unlike areas of southern Ontario and BC, Giant Hogweed has not become invasive in the Maritimes. However, further investigation of the extent of the Prince Edward Island population will occur later this month.
Giant Hogweed’s sap can cause burns and blisters on the skin when exposed to sunlight, and there have been reports of blindness caused by sap getting in the eyes. Although the plant has been confirmed on the Island, MacQuarrie cautioned that there is a need for awareness, but not alarm. “Prince Edward Island has a variety of toxic plants and they rarely cause serious problems. The key is to be able to identify and avoid them. Don’t let them keep you from enjoying the outdoors,” she said.
• Giant Hogweed is native to Central Asia, and has been spread to Europe and North America as a garden plant. It is not known when it arrived in Canada, but was first recorded in Ontario in 1949.
• To date in Canada, it has been found in all four Atlantic provinces, as well as Quebec, Ontario and BC. It has not been found in the prairies or the territories.
• It grows well in open, disturbed areas such as gardens and along roadways.
• Limited populations can be eradicated by digging and cutting the roots about six inches below the soil, or by cutting the plants at ground level and covering with black plastic. Repeated treatments for two to three years may be needed. Dug or cut material should be placed in a clear plastic bag and left in the sun for two weeks to destroy it.
• The sap can cause burns on the skin and blindness if it gets in the eyes. Those working with Giant Hogweed should wear gloves, long-sleeved shirt, pants and eye protection. Wash the clothes you were wearing and tools you were using when you are done. If sap comes into contact with your skin, wash with soap and cold water, stay out of the sun for at least 48 hours, and use extra sunblock on the area afterwards.