NORTHPORT, Maine — Last summer, two very unwelcome out-of-towners put down roots in the village of Bayside, until locals got rid of them in the dead of night.
It wasn’t a matter of xenophobia. It was a matter of safety, according to town officials who are asking residents to keep a close eye out this summer to see if there’s been a return of the intruder: giant hogweed.
The noxious plant’s sap is an extreme irritant. When skin touches the sap, the results can be painful blisters and burns that can cause permanent scarring. Contact with eyes can cause blindness.
“Be on the lookout. Don’t touch it,” Denise Lindahl, a selectman, said Monday. “Just let us know and we’ll deal with it.”
When the large plants were spotted last summer on George Street, the main route for Bayside village, it caused consternation for many who live in town.
“I was very concerned,” said Dan Webster, adding that he’s staying away from all plants with little white flowers. “I wouldn’t touch any of these plants now. I’m afraid. The symptoms don’t sound at all fun.”
Giant hogweed is a native of the Caucasus region of Asia, and can grow up to 14 feet tall or higher. Its leaves are several feet long and stems measure as much as 4 inches thick. But the flowers are the plant’s most remarkable aspect: white clusters that can measure 2 feet across.