If you see giant hogweed, don’t touch this dangerous plant!

giant hogweed from NYS DEC with man in protective clothing
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

The good news is that Western New York has fewer giant hogweed plants than it once did, but there are still occasional sightings of this dangerous plant in our area, said John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County.

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.

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!

Giant hogweed has been identified in every county in Western New York, but eradication efforts are making some headway, as you can see on this map. 

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.


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