What to do if you spot giant hogweed in Western New York

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

by Connie Oswald Stofko

A reader from Eden contacted me last week because he had spotted giant hogweed and wanted to know how to report it.

I’m so glad he remembered seeing information about giant hogweed previously on this site.

This is a seriously dangerous plant.

It can cause severe skin and eye irritation, including painful burns and permanent scarring. Getting even a tiny amount of the sap in your eyes can cause temporary or permanent blindness. See more here.

Don’t touch giant hogweed!

Is it giant hogweed?

Giant hogweed is currently flowering, making this one of the easiest times of the year to locate the plant, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

Giant hogweed looks like a huge Queen Anne’s lace. Flowering giant hogweed plants are eight to 14 feet tall and have large, flat-topped clusters of small white flowers, a green stem with purple blotches and coarse white hairs, and large leaves up to five feet across.

Learn more about identifying giant hogweed on the giant hogweed identification page from the DEC website.

How to report giant hogweed

The plant is a public health hazard, so if you spot it, please report giant hogweed to the DEC.

Make sure you don’t touch the plant.

The DEC would like you to take photos of the entire plant (stem, leaves, flower, seeds) and note the location. Send the information via email to ghogweed@dec.ny.gov, text to 518-320-0309, or call the Information Line at 845-256-3111.

If the plant is confirmed to be giant hogweed, the DEC will contact the landowner to discuss control options.

Progress on eliminating giant hogweed

Giant hogweed has been spotted in every county in Western New York, as you can see on this map, but progress is being made in controlling it. It has been eliminated at many sites.

In addition to working with regional and municipal partners, the public has been an invaluable partner in DEC’s Giant Hogweed Program, by submitting about 2,000 location reports each year, according to the DEC.

Yesterday the DEC released a 2018 Annual Report, which details the progress being made to identify and eradicate this noxious weed.

During the 2018 season:

  • Crews visited 1,993 sites to survey for or control giant hogweed.
  • No plants were found for the third consecutive year at 118 sites, bringing the total number of eradicated sites to 623—an increase of 25 percent from 2017.
  • Of all sites previously treated for infestation, 43 percent (1,071 sites) had no plants in 2018.
  • Crews removed approximately 678,000 plants from 1,271 sites during the 2018 field season.
  • Stream surveys were conducted for the first time last year. Crews searched upstream for additional infestations that may have contributed to known giant hogweed locations from seeds being carried downstream. A two-person crew visited 317 stream-side properties, surveyed 37.6 miles of stream frontage, and found 76 new infestations.
  • Of the sites statewide that still had plants, 71 percent (1,005) had fewer than 100 plants and are considered small sites that can be eradicated relatively quickly. DEC expects many more of these sites to have no new plants in the next few years.
  • Larger sites are responding well to control. Many larger sites that required herbicide treatment are now small enough to be treated by root cutting. Fewer sites have large flowering plants and, in general, sites are patchier than in previous years.

For other invasive species, the public can use the iMapInvasives database and mapping tool to make reports.

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