Giant hogweed, an invasive plant that can produce severe burns and blisters, has been spotted for the first time in Virginia.

Mark Sutphin, an agent with Virginia Cooperative Extension, said Monday the weed’s presence was confirmed in Berryville several days ago. He said a previous property owner planted it as an ornamental.

Debra Martin, a program manager with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said officials are formulating a plan to respond to the discovery.

Since the discovery others have reported giant hogweed sightings, but Martin said the Berryville plant is the only confirmed sighting. The plant can be confused with cow parsnip, which is native to Virginia.

Giant hogweed is on the federal noxious weed lists. It is illegal to propagate, sell or transport the plant in the United States. It is on the list because it can crowd out native plants and create a health hazard.

A single giant hogweed plant can produce up to 20,000 seeds.

The sap of a giant hogweed plant causes a skin reaction called phyto-photodermatitis, according to OSU Extension. This condition makes the skin highly sensitive to ultraviolet light. Contact with the eyes can cause temporary or permanent blindness.

It can be identified by a large compound umbel of white flowers, large, deeply incised leaves and prominent white hairs and purple blotches on its stems, according to OSU Extension.

Other plants, such as wild parsnip,  have similar effects.

What to do if you see giant hogweed

Identify: Use the key on our giant hogweed identification page to try and make a positive identification. Other plants that look similar are also shown.

Photograph: Photos are needed to confirm identification. Take high resolution photos of the entire plant, stem, leaves, flowers and seeds, making sure to keep a safe distance.

Report: Email DEC or call the Giant Hogweed Hotline: 1-845-256-3111. Provide photos, detailed directions to the plant infestation and estimate the number of plants.

Control: If giant hogweed is confirmed, DEC will contact the landowner and may visit to assess the site and discuss management options, as resources allow.

Learn more about Giant Hogweed.