Did you know that right here in New York, there's a pesky weed that could cause some serious trouble?

Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), originally from Eurasia, has become a real headache in New York. This tall plant was initially brought over for looks, but now it's spreading like crazy, causing all sorts of problems. Not only is it invasive, but it also packs a toxic punch that can affect your health.

Factors that Make Hogweed a Hazard

Giant hogweed is not your ordinary nuisance. It doesn't hurt you right away - a few things have to line up for it to cause trouble. First, the plant has to get damaged, like if you cut the stems, crush the leaves, or bruise the flowers. Then, its sap has to touch moist or sweaty skin. After that, when that skin gets hit by sunlight, it sets off a chain reaction.


Startling Consequences of Hogweed

Blisters: Within 24-48 hours of exposure, painful blisters may emerge, causing immense discomfort and anguish.

Skin Discoloration: Around 3-5 days after contact, the skin may undergo disfiguring discoloration.

Sun Sensitivity: The effects of giant hogweed can last for years, making the skin incredibly sensitive to sunlight.

Phytophotodermatitis: This skin condition triggered by giant hogweed's sap can rapidly get worse upon exposure to sunlight, and unfortunately, it lacks a simple treatment, creating a lingering concern for those affected.

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Is That Giant Hogweed in Your Yard?

Spotting giant hogweed can be a challenge because it looks similar to other plants. Some people mistake it for cow parsnip, water hemlock, poison hemlock, or wild parsnip. Giant hogweed is also often confused with flowers like Queen Anne's Lace. But the giveaway is its size - it grows a towering 15 to 20 feet tall with massive five-foot wide leaves and a bunch of white bristles. You'll also notice its hollow stems with funky purple blotches. It usually can be found in moist soils in most of New York.


Dealing with the Giant Hogweed Problem

If you find giant hogweed in your yard, you need to take care of it right away. Get in touch with your local environmental agency or some weed control experts - they've got the skills to handle this situation. They might try things like getting rid of the flower heads before the plant makes seeds or pulling up the roots in smaller infestations. For major outbreaks, involving over 400 plants, they might need to use some strong weed-killing stuff.

Stay Safe When Fighting Hogweed

If you're dealing with giant hogweed, be super careful and suit up with gloves and eye protection to avoid touching the toxic sap. And hold off on mowing your yard, unless you can keep at it often. The first time you mow can actually make the problem worse. You might also want to try rototilling your yard to mess up the plant's growth. And after you've been around it, give your shoes, mowers, and lawn gear a good wipe-down to stop the seeds from spreading.

5 of New York's Most Devastating Invasive Species

Here are 5 species that have invaded New York State and in some cases they must be killed. We are talking about fish that walk on land, plants that cause severe burns and insects that could wipe out a variety of crops that we rely on.

Keep an eye out for these species and you hike, work around the yard or do some fishing this year. Should you locate any of these it is important to report where and when you found them to the New York State DEC.

Gallery Credit: Karolyi

The 10 Most Invasive Animals & Insects in New York State

There's nothing worse than an unwanted guest.

Gallery Credit: Will Phillips

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