Have ever heard of Giant Hogweed or seen it growing locally? It is pretty rare for our area, but if you do ever see it do not touch this plant! As you know some wild plants are poisonous or can cause an allergic reaction or skin rash. However, the body’s reaction to the touch of this plant is severe and painful.
The Danger of Giant Hogweed
Giant Hogweed is classified as a noxious weed. When discovered the removal of this plant requires the precaution of wearing of hazmat (aka hazardous material) suits. Breaking the stem or leaves or even brushing against the bristles on the stem can release the sap of the plant. The consequences of the sap’s exposure to the skin or eyes is serious.
In combination with moisture and sunlight, the sap can cause side effects ranging from severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, burns, permanent scarring, and blindness. You can see photos of reactions to Giant Hogweed and how to treat them in the NYDEC’s Health Hazards & Safety Instructions Guide (be warned there are graphic photos).
If you think you’ve come in contact with the plant, wash the area(s) with cold water and soap immediately, stay out of sunlight for 48 hours, and consult a doctor.
If you ever encounter this plant, please report it to the New York Department of Conservation (NYDEC). Take photos and email them to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Giant Hogweed Hotline at 1.845.256.3111. It is best for professionals to remove the plant, and the DEC will monitor the site for future infestations.
How to Identify Giant Hogweed
How do you know that the plant you are seeing is Giant Hogweed? Here are some characteristics of the plant:
- Height can reach 8 to 14 feet when flowering
- Numerous small white flowers bloom at the top in an “umbrella” shape that can be 2 1/2 feet across
- Flowers in late June/July
- Leaves and lobed, deeply cut, and up to 5 feet across
- Stem is hollow, ridged, up to 4 inches across, with purple blotches and coarse white hairs
Where Does It Grow?
According to the NYDEC, Giant Hogweed is a native of the Caucasus Mountain region but was introduced to the United States in the early twentieth century and has become established in New England, the Mid-Atlantic Region and the Northwest.
Giant Hogweed grows along streams and rivers and in fields, forests, yards and roadsides. It prefers open sites with abundant light and moist soil but it can grow in partially shaded habitats, too. (NYDEC)
There have been reports of the plant growing in the Champlain Valley. Click here to see a map with active sites in the state.
Common Mistaken Plants
Take a look at the image below to see a few of plants with details of how they differ from Giant Hogweed to help you correctly identify Giant Hogweed when you see it.
- If You See This Plant, Whatever You Do Do NOT Touch It! (realfarmacy.com)
- Seen At 11: State Urges New Yorkers To Beware Of Plant That Can Cause Burns (newyork.cbslocal.com)