Illegal, highly toxic hogweed plants are popping up in Mid-Michigan

Hogweed plant could cause blistering, blindness; Michigan residents finding it

DETROIT – Illegal and highly toxic plants are popping up in Mid-Michigan.

They're called giant hogweed and they're extremely dangerous to the touch.

"We liked it, it looked tropical," said Kim Huguelet, who unknowingly planted the weed.

Little did they know the impressive plant can cause depressing damage and just touching it can make you go blind.

"So we just said, it's gotta go now," said Huguelet.

They called experts at Michigan State University who needed hazmat gear to dispose of the 10 foot tall hogweed with leaves as big as 5 feet that were covered in little hairs of toxic sap.

"The public needs to understand that this is not like having a plant. This is really a toxic hazard for family and loved ones," said Peter Carrington, MSU toxic plant expert

"We have grandchildren running all over, small grandchildren running all over here all the time, and we were very concerned," said Huguelet.

They weren't hurt, but children and pets are especially at risk while they play outside. 

They just have to brush against it, then expose that skin to sunlight and some type of wetness, like sweat or rain," said

"And what this produces is rather disfiguring, unsightly fluid-filled blisters, which unfortunately also pigment the skin," said Carrington.

It's looks and feels like leaving your arm on a hot stove and it takes months to clear up, then there are scars.

Clinical steroids can help.

"Modern treatment of this is not as great and efficacious as treatment for poison ivy is," said Carrington.

It doesn't always take a hazmat team to kill the plant, round up works, you just have to watch out next year.

"Once they get started, they do have to be followed," said Carrington, adding that there has been a hogweed eradication effort recently, but he knows of sightings in Jackson and he has even heard of people selling seeds in Lansing.

That can land you in trouble, if you knowingly sell or plant giant hogweed, expect a federal fine.

If you think you've seen one of these monsters, or have one in your yard then you're encouraged to call the Michigan department of agriculture or the Michigan invasive plant council.