Reminder: Don’t touch giant hogweed or wild parsnip

giant hogweed from NYS DEC
Adult giant hogweed plants are very tall and have white, umbrella-shaped flower clusters and stems with purple splotches. Don’t touch this dangerous plant! Report your sighting to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Photo courtesy NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Now is the time that giant hogweed plants are blooming, making it a prime time to spot this invasive plant, according the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Giant hogweed 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. 

The DEC also warns of wild parsnip, which can burn your skin.

Giant hogweed

Giant hogweed looks like a huge Queen Anne’s lace. You can find identification tips, including a table of lookalikes, on the DEC website. DEC recently hosted a Facebook Live about giant hogweed identification, look-alikes and how to report findings. You can view the recording on their Facebook page.

The plants tend to be 7-14 feet tall with umbrella-shaped clusters of white flowers up to 2.5 feet wide. The stem is green with purple splotches and coarse white hairs, and leaves are large (up to 5 feet across), incised, and deeply lobed. 

If you think you have found giant hogweed, do not touch it. From a safe distance, take photos of the plant’s stem, leaves, flower, seeds and the whole plant. Then report your sighting to DEC by emailing photos and location information to ghogweed@dec.ny.gov or calling (845) 256-3111.

DEC staff will confirm if it is giant hogweed and discuss plans for management.

Progress is being made in controlling giant hogweed, which you can see on this map. It has been eliminated at many sites.

Wild parsnip

wild parsnip courtesy NYS DEC
Wild parsnip plants have yellow, umbrella-shaped flowers. Don’t touch this dangerous plant! Photo courtesy New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Wild parsnip is an invasive plant with sap that can cause burns on skin. It can grow in a variety of habitats but is commonly found growing in fields and along roadsides.

Wild parsnip can be identified by its:

  • Yellow, umbrella-shaped flowers
  • Smooth, hairless, ribbed stem
  • Leaves that resemble celery leaves

There are no state or federal programs to remove wild parsnip in New York State because the plant is so widespread across much of New York.

If you are looking to remove it from your property, be sure to wear long sleeves, long pants and gloves. Avoid any contact with the sap of the plant when working. Find out how to safely remove wild parsnip here.

You can report infestations to New York iMapInvasives to add to the state’s collection of invasive species location data.

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