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Sosnowski borscht. Let’s watch out for this plant! Just being around is dangerous. What to do when burnt

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Sosnowski borscht is an invasive plant that can be found all over Poland. It secretes juices and essential oils that can cause even third degree burns and severe allergic reactions. As the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate warns, contact with them does not occur only by touching the plant – it is enough to be near it.

There are many invasive species in the Polish flora – those that did not occur originally in our ecosystems, but were introduced and then spread massively. Among them is the wrinkled rose known from parks (Rosa rugosa) or the small-flowered impatiens often found in forests (Impatiens parviflora). From an environmental point of view, they are a serious competition for native plants, but some of them can also be dangerous for humans.

The Chief Sanitary Inspectorate (GIS) warns on social media about Sosnowski borscht, which is especially dangerous in the summer.

“The poisonous plant blooms in June and July,” we read on Facebook.

Sosnowski borscht – where does it occur, what does it look like?

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Sosnowski borscht (Heracleum sosnowskyi) is an invasive plant that came to Poland in the late 1950s from the Caucasus as a fodder plant. Cattle, however, were reluctant to eat borscht silage, and during the preparation of fodder, the plant burned both people and animals. In addition, it spread very quickly outside the cultivation areas, covering the whole of Poland.

It is one of the largest herbaceous plants in the world, reaching up to 3-5 meters in height – for comparison, the common hogweed, which occurs naturally in Poland (Heracleum sphondylium) reaches a maximum height of 1.5 m. The leaf rosette surrounding the stem can be up to 2 m in diameter, and the thickness of the stem itself – up to 12 centimeters. Sosnowski’s borscht has characteristic white flowers gathered in large umbels, and purple spots appear on the stem.

Currently, most of the Sosnowski hogweed stands are spontaneous. The plant is most often found along the banks of rivers and on the slopes of roadside ditches. It also commonly grows in meadows and pastures.

Sosnowski borscht – why is it dangerous?

The juice and essential oils of the Sosnowski hogweed contain toxic substances that, when exposed to solar radiation, cause skin changes resembling burns: a rash. redness and swelling. There are also allergic symptoms: nausea, vomiting, headaches, as well as injuries to the respiratory system, eyes, and even anaphylactic shock. Symptoms usually appear from a few to several hours after contact with the plant.

The toxicity of Sosnowski hogweed is favored by summer conditions – humidity and high air temperature. In addition, burns can occur even without direct contact with the plant, because the essential oils secreted by it can float in the air for a distance of several meters.

As GIS advises, in order to avoid burns, we should not touch and pick plants with bare hands. It is better to avoid its proximity, but if we have to stay near Sosnowski borscht, it is worth protecting the skin, eyes and respiratory tract against UV radiation by wearing glasses and sunblock, clothing made of non-absorbent plastics or protective masks.

Sosnowski borschtMaria Samczuk/PAP

Sosnowski borscht – what to do when burnt?

Experts explain that in the event of contact with Sosnowski’s hogweed, wash the skin with lukewarm water and soap as soon as possible to remove the juice of the plant from its surface. In addition, it is worth washing items and washing clothes that have been in contact with borscht. In case of eye contact with the plant, rinse them thoroughly with water, protect them from light and consult an ophthalmologist.

If blisters have appeared on the skin, but they have not burst, topical corticosteroid ointments can be used – the selection of pharmacological agents should be consulted with a doctor. Do not touch the affected areas, but the pain can be relieved with cool, ice packs. In case of severe burns and respiratory problems, it is necessary to call an ambulance.

Specialists remind that regardless of the severity of symptoms, exposure to sunlight should be avoided – even in the absence of symptoms for at least 48 hours after contact with the plant.

Sosnowski borscht is a strongly stinging plantGodlewska Estera/PAP

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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