It can cause third-degree burns and even permanent blindness — and it’s spreading.

Giant hogweed is cutting a wider swath in B.C. and Ontario, and the Nature Conservancy of Canada is urging people across the country to document sightings of the­ towering, three-metre green plant with large umbels of white flowers.

Dan Kraus, a biologist with the conservancy, said the invasive Asian species likely arrived in Canada in the 1940s and can now be found in areas of the Atlantic provinces and Quebec, and has been spreading in southern Ontario and southern B.C.

“Nobody’s really sure when it arrived here. It was probably introduced as an ornamental plant and it is starting to slowly spread,” said Kraus from Guelph, Ont.

“It’s possible people are moving it from garden to garden. They see it in their aunt’s garden and they think it’s this wonderful plant, and they’re collecting seeds and moving it to another location, which is something we definitely don’t want people to do.”

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