Dangerous plant: Do not touch giant hogweed! It can cause severe burns and blindness

giant hogweed from NYS DEC with man in protective clothing
The giant hogweed plant I saw a few years ago was only about four feet tall, but as you can see here, it can grow to be 14 feet tall. Notice the protective clothing this person is wearing. Don’t touch this plant unless you are dressed just like he is! Photo courtesy New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

by Connie Oswald Stofko

I saw giant hogweed in Niagara County several years ago. It was about four feet tall and I thought it was an overgrown Queen Anne’s lace. Boy, am I glad I didn’t go near it!

Its sap, in combination with moisture and sunlight, can cause severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, permanent scarring and blindness.

This is a seriously dangerous plant.

The plant has been identified in every county in Western New York. See a map here showing where giant hogweed has been found. 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.

This plant is a public health hazard, so if you spot it, please report giant hogweed to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC).

The first step is to make sure it really is giant hogweed and not some other similar-looking plant. Check out the giant hogweed identification page from the New York State DEC website as well as this page from the University of Connecticut.

giant hogweed from NYS DEC
This person is standing close enough to the giant hogweed to give you an idea of how large the plant can grow, but not so close as to touch it. Photo courtesy New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The second step is to take high-resolution photos of the entire plant, stem, leaves, flowers and seeds, making sure to keep a safe distance.

Third, email the information to ghogweed@gw.dec.state.ny.us or call the Giant Hogweed Hotline at 1-845-256-3111. Provide photos, detailed directions to the plant infestation and estimated number of plants.

If the plant is giant hogweed and it is on your property, the DEC will contact you and may visit to assess the site and discuss management options, as resources allow. Learn more about the DEC control program and how to control giant hogweed. 

Not only is this plant dangerous, it’s invasive and can crowd out native plants.

However, there has been some progress made in limiting its spread. This map shows giant hogweed sites that have been treated and eliminated.


4 Comments on “Dangerous plant: Do not touch giant hogweed! It can cause severe burns and blindness

  1. That’s the hard part, isn’t it?– catching it before it grows to be 14 feet tall. The links in the article give folks great photos comparing the various parts of giant hogweed to parts of other common plants so you can tell them apart.

  2. Good you did not touch it. Viewers should realize when it is small, it looks like a few non-irritant plants.

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