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Great Lakes Article:

New invasive plant found
Andy Hill
Ironwood Daily Globe
Posted 10/28/2002

IRONWOOD -- Imagine Queen Anne's Lace on steroids.

Then imagine a plant which can cause a worse burn than poison ivy, one that might leave a permanent scar.

Now you'll understand why local gardeners may wish to follow federal guidelines and get rid of any giant hogweed infestations they find.

Two sites with giant hogweed have been found in residential neighborhoods in Ironwood, according to Joyce Price, of the Michigan State University-Extension office here.

The plant was introduced to North America from Europe, where it was regarded as a garden curiosity. Its beauty nearly caused Price to make a serious mistake.

"I had noticed it over at my friend's house, on Florence, street, and thought it was very beautiful," said Price. "I thought very seriously about transplanting it into my own garden, never thinking that it was invasive, or that it was poisonous."

The stems of the plants, circled by green leaves, stand on a yard on Gogebic Street and another on Florence Street. They are six to seven feet high and would grow much larger in a more forgiving climate.

It's the clear, watery sap the plants exude which does its damage. It sensitizes the skin to ultraviolet radiation, according to literature published by the State of Washington. This can result in severe burns to the affected areas, resulting in severe blistering and painful dermatitis.

These blisters can develop into purplish or blackened scars.

A Gogebic County resident discovered the plants here.

"We had a gentleman come in and he had found the stand over on Gogebic street, and sent it down to the University of Michigan to have it identified," said Price. "They're the ones who told him what he had. They suggested that he should notify local appropriate people.

"His report to the U of M was the first documented report of finding this in the Upper Peninsula."

Price said Sue Trull, who heads up the invasive species fight on the Ottawa National Forest, and Ian Shackleford, botanist on the Ottawa, were made aware of the plant.

"The three of us discussed what we wanted to do in terms of making this known to the public," said Price, who contacted Shackleford because he had presented a slide program on invasive species to the local garden club this summer.

Though nobody will force you to remove the plants, the federal government would rather they be destroyed, Price said.

"The recommendation is to make a decision as to whether you want to get rid of it," she said. "If you consider it to have value, you just have to leave it alone, not touch it and not let it spread. And make sure that anybody coming into your yard doesn't touch it."

"The best thing would be to cut the seed heads off before they go to seed," she said, and suggested waterproof gloves, heavy clothing and eye protection when dealing with the plants.

"It is on the federal noxious list, and they would prefer that we get rid of it so it doesn't have the opportunity to spread," she said. "We are interested in knowing anyplace in the county that it has been seen.

"If people are interested in getting rid of it from their yard, we're considering a public drive to rid the county of it. They certainly could leave their name and address here."

Price may be reached at the extension office, 932-1420.

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