Move over Poison Ivy, there’s a new noxious weed in town… rather it’s in the parks, trails, and forests that you hike. It’s the Giant Hogweed plant. This weed is noxious, invasive, and dangerous. Unfortunately, this toxic plant is spreading across many states.
If you spot what you think is a Giant Hogweed plant, there are two things you should do. First, steer clear of it. Whatever you do, do not touch it! Second, immediately report it to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), or your local authorities. They will come out wearing hazmat suits and remove them.
Giant Hogweed is a short-lived perennial that is native to the Caucasus region of Asia and Europe. You may be surprised to learn that this plant is a member of the carrot family. In the early 1900s, it was imported into the United States as an ornamental plant. Some people still grow them as ornamentals, despite the risk to their health. The plant is spread via birds and waterways. Because seeds need exposure to cold weather to germinate, they are less likely to spread to the hot, southern areas of the U.S.
Giant Hogweed plants prefer moist to wet soils. high in organic matter, and full to partial sun. Seeds and plants do not survive in waterlogged soils.
Botanical Name: Heracleum Mantegazziamum
Giant Hogweed grows up to 14 feet. It has a thick, hairy, green stem, covered with purple blotches. The hairs on the stem are white. The plant has huge leaves, larger than your hand, which shade out other local vegetation. The flowers are white and sometimes pinkish color. They are found in parks, open areas, fields, and forests.
The clear, watery sap of the Giant Hogweed is toxic. The toxin is called “furanocoumarin”. Contact with your skin causes sensitivity to UV radiation, losing the ability to protect the skin from the sun. This results in burns, blisters, and scars. Contact with the eyes can cause blindness. In severe exposure, hospitalization may be required.