The poisonous giant hogweed plant has invaded Courtenay and the entire North Island is at risk of falling prey to its advances, say Courtenay residents.
The umbelliferous species, related to fennel, cow parsley and ground elder, poses serious health hazards, and can cause severe burning, weeping blisters and even blinding, according to experts.
It has been growing in Canada since the 1940s, but only recently have people been spotting the plant more frequently in the Comox Valley.
Jane Gjertsen has already spotted the plant in three locations right around her Muir Road home.
"This is bad," she said. "The reason why it's bad is it's invasive. "You can get the sap on your skin and it gets exposed to the sun and then it starts to burn."
Back in 2013, a National Post piece blew the lid on the dangers of the plant.
Because the sap contains toxic chemicals called furanocoumarins, when bathed in sunlight the skin becomes red — also known as phytophotodermatitis.
Temporary or permanent blindness can even arise from ocular exposure.
"The average person knows very little about it," she said. "It just takes up all the space and it's huge."
The plant can grow up to 14 feet tall.
It originally came from the land surrounding the Black and Caspian seas.
Like many dangerous things, it looks beautiful with its umbrella pattern.
You can recognize its stems because of purple blotches and hairs.
Courtenay resident Robert Lesage said he knows there have been issues with the plant in Victoria and has heard about the dangers. He just didn't know he was in such danger of seeing the plant spread here, as well.
"You get a reaction to the plant if you touch it," he said. "You get itchy."
Worse still, he's not even sure he'd recognize it if he saw it.
More and more counties across the country are beginning to put the plant on the noxious weed list.
A resident of Muir Road who gave her name as Amanda gazes at a group of towering stalks under the afternoon sunlight. She knows the battle community administrators are up against. She's seen that when the plant is cut down it can grow back again right away.
"It's definitely a concern," she said.
Work Safe BC
Invasive Plant Council of BC
BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands (Pest Management)