Friday, July 2, 2010
The Poison Garden
A few years ago, a coworker gave me a plant we thought was a gunnera. I thought it would look really cool and fill in a space between a tree and our shed.
Every year it would send out a few tentative shoots, and then it would be so dry beside this hemlock tree that it would never get beyond a few leaves and then die off for the year. Infallibly, it would always revive itself the following spring and the cycle would continue. I always wondered about this plant, and hoped to see it in all it's prehistoric glory (looks like an ancient plant in my books, especially with that size... something from Jurassic Park...).
This year, with our lovely spring that has been so average that the spring weather we had for our winter Olympics was better, our "gunnera" reached new heights. Instead of spreading out in to a glorious looking plant, our plant reached for the sky and then produced great white flower blooms. I was a mite concerned, for this didn't look like what I figured a gunnera would. It being close to heading back to work time, and just me frittering away time with the kids, and not really being out in the garden, I have been actively avoiding this plant.
It turns out this a good thing.
Damn plant is poison.
Thank you to my caring neighbors who saw the 8 foot plant over the fence and saved an article for me from the local rag. Our "gunnera" is an evil, poisonous plant called a Hogweed.
As you can see, slight difference in between the two types of plants. Maybe not so much in infancy, but once a hogweed takes off, there it goes.
Check this out:
Giant Hogweed is a phototoxic plant. Its sap can cause photodermatitis (severe skin inflammations) when the skin is exposed to sunlight or to UV-rays. Initially the skin colours red and starts itching. Then blisters form as in burns within 48 hours. They form black or purplish scars that can last several years. Hospitalisation may be necessary. Presence of minute amounts of sap in the eyes can lead to temporary or even permanent blindness. These reactions are caused by the presence of linear derivatives of furocoumarin in its leaves, roots, stems, flowers and seeds. These chemicals can get into the nucleus of the epithelial cells, forming a bond with the DNA, causing the cells to die. The brown colour is caused by the production of melanin by furocoumarins.
This plant is so evil that most cities, states, and provinces all have warnings on how to deal with this invasive plant. Our hogweed will be disposed of tomorrow... time to break out the hazmat suits!! Even Worksafe BC has produced a video on how to deal with this fiend!!
Be gone evil plant!