Duncan’s Dian Tulip was shocked when she realized two plants she was nursing in her garden turned out to be invasive and toxic giant hogweed.
According to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, giant hogweed is one of the most dangerous plants in the country.
The exotic plant can grow up to six metres tall and is covered in clusters of white flowers.
Its colourless sap is toxic, and when it contacts human skin and is exposed to sunlight it can cause blisters, burns and even blindness.
Tulip, a former florist, said the plants were growing next to some cacti she had planted this spring.
She said that when the plants started to grow, she was curious as to what they were and allowed them to grow to more than a metre high before she finally identified the species.
“I’ve been a gardener for a long time, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen one of these plants,” Tulip said.
“It may have come in the soil with cacti, in the bark mulch that I have spread around the garden, or maybe it was something as simple as birds leaving the seeds in their droppings here.”
Tulip said she has checked with her neighbours and none that she has talked to have noticed any giant hogweed plants growing on their properties.
She said she and her husband carefully removed the plants using gloves and other clothes to keep the plants from contacting their skin and carefully placed them in garbage bags.
Tulip said she took them to the dump herself because she was concerned that city workers would come into contact with the sap if they were put in the regular roadside recycling.
“Giant hogweed can be very prolific and their seeds can last for 10 years,” she said.
“This is the time of the year when they start to bloom so we wanted to get the word out about these plants.”
Giant hogweed probably came to Canada from Asia in the 1940s as a decorative plant.
Its leaves are deeply incised and the leaves on their underside are stiff, dense and stubby and can exceed 2.5 metres in length.
The stems of the giant hogweed have dark reddish purple blotches on the stalks, and the plants have large white umbrella-like flower clusters.