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Hogweed hits Hogtown: plant oozing blindness-causing goo spreads through Toronto

The G20 summit may be over, but now Toronto faces a new calamity in the form of hogweed, a gigantic poisonous plant that’s recently been spotted in the Don Valley and even backyards. The weed, which also goes by the hilarious name giant cow parsnip, has been spreading across the country and is covered in a sap that’s downright brutal: contact with the sap, in addition to potentially causing cancer and birth defects, can lead to inflammation, blisters, permanent scarring and even blindness. It’s the worst thing to hit the Don Valley since the DVP.

The Ontario government has yet to declare war on this particular weed, since it neither impedes agriculture nor gets people high. Official weed inspectors in most provinces (yes, they exist) haven’t been authorized to kill the plant, leaving the job to fauna vigilantes like Jeff Muzzi, a forestry manager and weed inspector near Ottawa.

“It’s not really my job,” he told the Post. “I just thought, Somebody better take the bull by the horns here, ’cause this stuff is really dangerous.”

Muzzi decks himself out in a Tyvek suit, goggles and gloves, then “nukes” the hogweed with Roundup. Trying to get rid of the plant with a weed whacker just gets the sap everywhere, apparently. The above video from WorkSafe B.C. shows just how bad the hogweed scourge can get when left unchecked and offers some helpful, if campy, tips.

For the time being, campers, gardeners and children are most susceptible to hogweed, which can grow to freakish heights of six metres or so, according to the Globe. The temptation to play with hogweed’s hollow stems, which apparently make for sweet telescopes and pea shooters, should probably be resisted.

Giant weed that burns and blinds spreads across Canada [National Post]
Giant weed that can cause blindness popping up in Ontario, B.C. [Globe and Mail]

  • YeahOkFerShure

    Cow parsnip is NOT giant hogweed, though they have a similar appearance. I’m much more concerned that people are fear-mongering about this plant and that some ridiculous plant-hating vigilante is spreading Round-up through our wild spaces. That stuff is banned from household use in many countries, including here in Ontario. It’s ironic that he is blaming hogweed for causing cancer, birth defects and blindness, when those are things caused by the same herbicide he’s spraying around. Where’s the proof of his outrageous claims? All you have to do is look up Round-up (also known as 2,4-D, the main chemical in Agent Orange and often contaminated with dioxin) to find out it’s nasty stuff we’d do better to avoid. But how to avoid it when it’s already contaminating ground and surface water throughout Canada and the U.S? And with reckless, law-breaking “do-gooders” randomly spreading it around? The ignorance is appalling.