Meet giant hogweed. It can grow to over 20 feet tall. Its blossoms are the size of umbrellas. It has pretty flowers. It's all over New York State this summer
. And if you mess with it, it will end you
Here's the problem with what looks like just a really big weed: the sap of giant hogweed has chemical agents that cause phytophotodermatitis if it gets on your skin. Or, in other words, once the sap gets on you, and is exposed to any form of sunlight or UV rays, it bonds with your cells and kills them, covering any area that had the sap on it with blisters and purplish black scars. Basically, it lets you feel what it's like to be a vampire in Arizona at high noon.
Oh, and if any gets in your eyes? You go blind. You know, because this thing wasn't unmitigated nightmare fuel in the first place. It's also really hard to kill! Even better!
So how did something this disgusting get to America in the first place? Blame the British. In the 19th
century, they imported this terrifying stuff from central Asia because...they wanted to decorate their gardens with it. We're assuming whoever imported it had managed to offend his guide, or maybe the term “painful way to die” and “permanent hideous scars” were translated as “pretty flower” and “good for gardens.”
So if you happen to be in the wilderness of New York state and see a huge 20-foot-tall plant surrounded by the screams of the damned, consider picking another route.Photo: Nigel Cattlin/Visuals Unlimited, Inc./Getty Images