A British man suffered life-changing injuries after coming into contact with a wild plant known to cause severe damage to the human skin.
Dean Simmons felt the wrath of giant hogweed after his bare leg scraped against it while fishing, the Daily Mail reported.
The horticulturalist from Somerset said he knew about the vicious plant, but by the time he realized what had happened, it was already too late.
“Because of my job, I had knowledge of this plant and was still caught out,” Simmons said told BBC. “I was out fishing and didn't see it until it was too late - and a day later I was on morphine.”
Huge scarring blisters formed around Simmons’ legs. Doctors told him it could take months for him to fully recover.
(Warning: Graphic photos)
“The burns and pain are going to get much worse,” Simmons wrote on his Facebook page. “Anyone who lives in Taunton and uses the canal, look out for giant hogweed and keep yourself and the kids clear of it.
“I'm in pure agony and I can't walk," he added. "I would hate to see a child in my position. The pain is unreal.”
Giant hogweed originated from Georgia and the Caucasus mountains in southern Russia. They can grow up to 20 feet tall and kill off rival plants by blotting out their sunlight, according to the Daily Mail.
They commonly grow alongside rivers and canals, afflicting many unsuspecting victims as a result.
Keith Cooper, of Howdon, came into contact with giant hogweed last September while walking his dog with his wife.
“We were walking the dog near the coast road when my wife stopped to admire a plant and she asked if we could have one for our garden,” Cooper recalled to The Daily Mail. “The sap rubbed against me but I didn't realise [sic] as it didn't hurt. I just thought I had been bitten. It was only when I got home that my right leg flared up and it started blistering.”
Doctors told him he developed phytophotodermatitis, a disorder which makes skin hypersensitive to ultraviolet light. They informed Cooper that he would have to keep his right leg out of sunlight for the next seven years.
“If I do, the sun will blister it again because the injury has taken all the skin's natural UV protection away,” Cooper explained, The Daily Mail reports.
Giant hogweed sap contains toxic chemicals which can cause blistering within 48 hours. The toxic sap effectively prevents the skin from protecting itself against the sun, which can lead to severe sunburns and scarring.
The toxic weed can even cause temporary or permanent blindness if rubbed in the eyes.
Anyone who comes into contact with giant hogweed is encouraged to cover up the infected area and to wash it with soap and water.
Chief horticultural adviser at the Royal Horticultural Society Guy Barter said that giant hogweed was originally introduced in England as an ornamental garden plant in the 19th century but quickly spread into the wild.
“Sadly, once imported, it didn't stay in the garden, and it was quickly out in the environment, with its seeds floating off along watercourses,” Barter explained. “You can immediately recognise [sic] it because it is much bigger than the native species, and has a thick bristly stem and often purple blotches.”
Photo Credit: Daily Mail, WikiCommons,