The Heracleum mantegazzianum plant — or giant hogweed — may look like a beautiful flowering tree, but one curious touch of its leaves, stems, or flowers could leave you blistered and permanently blind.

According to U.S. officials in the Forest Service, Dept. of Agriculture and Dept. of Natural Resources, brushing up against the plant could trigger the release of its toxic sap. The sap causes the skin to blister, scar, and permanently discolor. The giant hogweed can also cause temporary and permanent blindness.

After contact with the giant hogweed's sap, people's skin becomes damaged because of toxins called furanocoumarins. These toxic compounds are photoactive, meaning their toxicity becomes stronger when they come into contact with ultraviolet rays. Consequently, the skin's contact with giant hogweed sap makes it very sensitive to sunlight, causing scarring that takes a very long time to heal. And even after it does heal, a person's skin can remain sensitive to sunlight even years after contact with the dangerous plant. The same could be said for the eyes, which are even more vulnerable to furanocoumarins' toxic nature.

The giant hogweed is believed to have originated in Asia, but sprung up in New York about 100 years ago. In the years since, the plant has become most prevalent in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest United States.

If you come into contact with the giant hogweed, officials advise that you wash your skin immediately. There is a delayed reaction, so even if you don't immediately see irritation on your skin, take the appropriate precautions to ensure your safety. Don't expose the area you believe to have been affected to sunlight for at least 48 hours. Wash your eyes with water and wear sunglasses. Also, as always, make sure you seek the advice of a medical professional.

Here are a couple of videos about the giant hogweed plant, how to identify it, and why it's important that you do not touch it: