Giant Hogweed Warning and Signs

Giant hogweed invasive plant.

BY: Judy Drabicki
Summer is in full swing in Northern New York. While I encourage New Yorkers and visitors to get outside and experience state lands, I also want to take this opportunity to educate readers about potential dangers in the natural world.   

                Giant Hogweed is an invasive plant that can grow to 14 feet, or higher. This plant’s unique size makes it irresistible to curious passersby. But if people touch this plant, its sap can cause third-degree burns. Giant Hogweed is a federally listed noxious weed with a hollow, ridged stem that grows two to four inches in diameter with dark reddish-purple blotches. Its large compound leaves can grow up to five feet wide, and its distinctive white flower heads can grow up to 2 1/2 feet in diameter.

                Nature lovers: DO NOT TOUCH THIS PLANT. Its sap, in combination with moisture and sunlight, can cause severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, permanent scarring, and even blindness. And it doesn’t take much contact for this to happen. Simply brushing up against the bristles on the stem will help the sap to reach the skin.

                Giant Hogweed grows along streams and rivers and in fields, forests, yards, and roadsides and can be easy to confuse with more passive plants. Visit DEC’s Giant Hogweed identification page https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/39809.html to make a positive identification, or simply call our Giant Hogweed hotline at 1-845-256-3111 to report it.

                If you suspect you’ve encountered Giant Hogweed, immediately wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and keep the area away from sunlight for 48 hours. See your physician immediately.

                Another concern during the warmer months is the tick. Ticks can spread Lyme disease and other diseases through bites to animals and humans. Ticks cling to tall grass, brush, and shrubs. These tiny pests also live in lawns and gardens, especially at the edge of woods and around old stone walls.

                After a tick gets on the skin, it usually climbs up the body until it reaches a protected area, such as under clothing. Don’t let ticks keep you from hiking, camping, hunting, or working outdoors. Instead, protect yourself by wearing light-colored clothing, enclosed shoes, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt. Tuck pant legs into socks or boots and consider using insect repellent on clothing, as well. Most importantly after spending time outdoors, be sure to conduct a “tick check,” a full body tick check at the end of the day and remove any ticks promptly. If you suspect a tick bite, contact your physician or your veterinarian immediately.

                One last tip: before you jump in the water or allow pets to swim, be on the lookout for harmful algal blooms (HABs). HABs can make people and animals sick. Most algae are harmless, but exposure to toxins and other substances produced by HABs can be harmful. It’s best to avoid swimming, boating, fishing, or other recreation in discolored water that looks like it might have a bloom. The presence of HABs can look like bright green spilled paint on the water. Before visiting your favorite swimming spots, check DEC’s HABs listing page. 

                Governor Cuomo recently announced the release of 12 tailored action plans to address the causes of HABs in priority waterbodies across upstate New York. The action plans outline specific projects and programs to be implemented at priority lakes and also identify actions that can be taken at waterbodies statewide to reduce the threat of HABs. These plans are a central component of the governor’s $65 million, four-point initiative unveiled in the 2018 State of the State to aggressively combat HABs and protect drinking water quality and the upstate economy. The state is providing nearly $60 million in grant funding to support implementation projects for the priority lakes, as well as other waterbodies impacted by HABs. More detailed information on applying for funding can be found at https://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/113733.html.

                Plan your trips responsibly and arm yourself with information to protect yourself, your family, and your pets. With these tips, I encourage you to get outside this summer and enjoy all that New York’s environment has to offer.

Hogweed:

https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/39809.html

Giant Hogweed hotline  1-845-256-3111

Tick prevention:

https://www.dec.ny.gov/public/111538.html

HABs notification page:

https://www.dec.ny.gov/public/111538.html