Officials are fighting an uphill battle against a toxic weed as it spreads across Quebec.

Giant hogweed, also known as wild parsnip, is sometimes confused with Queen Anne’s Lace.

However, the invasive plant species is not your average wildflower.

First discovered in Quebec in 1990, giant hogweed has spread across the province where it has destabilized ecosystems, contributed to erosion and created painful rashes for anyone who brushes against it.

The toxins in the sap can create what is known as "phytophotodermatitis" — basically an extreme sensitivity to sunlight.

The effects of the toxins are not felt immediately, but once activated by UV rays, they can damage skin cells and cause lesions that look similar to burns.

Researchers with Laval University surveyed more than 169 plant colonies, mostly concentrated in the area north of Montreal, and near Gatineau, Trois-Rivères, Quebec City and Sherbrooke.

However, their report suggests that number reflects only "a fraction" of Quebec's giant hogweed colonies.

Fortunately, the plant is relatively easy to spot and remove.

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