The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is warning everyone to avoid touching this very large invasive plant that can cause painful burns and scarring.

If you lived in New York for a while you've probably heard the warning before from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) advising everyone to avoid any contact whatsoever with a specific plant that can be found scattered across the state.

Giant Hogweed Warning in New York

Giant Hogweed in New York

The Giant Hogweed is a plant many New Yorkers are familiar with as it has been a problem in many parts of the state for as long as I can remember. Every year right around the start of summer the folks at the DEC send out its yearly warning to remind everyone that if you come across the Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) avoid it at cost. The yearly "Do Not Touch This Plant" warning explains that if you do touch it, it can cause painful burns and scarring according to the DEC.

Giant Hogweed
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

What is a Giant Hogweed?

The Giant hogweed (above) is a biennial or perennial that can grow to 14 feet or more with hollow, ridged stems that can grow to 2-4 inches in diameter and have dark reddish-purple blotches. It has white flower heads that can grow up to 2 1/2 feet in diameter and has leaves that can grow up to 5 feet wide. Oftentimes the Giant hogweed grows in dense patches and is most commonly found growing along rivers, streams, and other waterways as well as fields and along roadsides.

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Here are the active giant hogweed sites all across New York...

Giant Hogweed Active Sites in New York
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

What Happens if you Touch it?

If you mistakenly brush up against it or somehow break the plant it will release a sap that, combined with sunlight and moisture, can cause a severe burn within 24 to 48 hours. The DEC shared pictures (below) of what can happen if you come in contact with the Federally listed noxious weed, as well as what you should do if it does happen. You should wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water as soon as possible, keep the exposed area covered and protected from sunlight for 48 hours, and as with any health issues you should see a doctor.

Giant Hogweed Burns
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Giant Hogweed Precautions

If you think you might be working near a Giant Hogweed plant the DEC recommends that you never touch it with bare skin, and you should apply sunblock and wear long, waterproof gloves, long sleeves, pants, boots, and eye protection. You should also keep water, soap, and eyewash near your work area in case of exposure to its sap. After you finish working near the plant remember that your clothes might have been contaminated so make sure that when you remove them they do not touch your skin. You should also wash them immediately with soap and water, as well as any equipment used.

Think You Might Have Giant Hogweed?

Every year the DEC sends field crews (for free) out across the state to use the appropriate control method at each confirmed giant hogweed site. If you think you see giant hogweed the DEC is asking you to take pictures of the different parts of the plant (the entire plant, stem, leaves, and flowers/seed) while keeping a safe distance. Then, email the DEC or call the Giant Hogweed Information Line at 845-256-3111. They ask that you include photos, detailed directions to the plant infestation (GPS coordinates and street address preferred), and estimate the number of plants.

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