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Beware of giant hogweed in NY

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is warning of giant hogweed cropping up around the state.

Wayne Allen of Brockport says he has them on his large property.

It does spread like poison ivy and I do get that from time to time, said Allen. Fortunately I haven't gotten this [giant hogweed exposure]. It burns your skin pretty badly.

Allen said the DEC has come to his property twice this summer to treat the weed. Luckily, his family and animals have not been harmed, but its a giant pest that keeps growing back.

We've dug it up and it comes right back, said Allen.

In fact, the DEC said the toxic plants sap can cause painful blisters if exposed to the human skin and sunlight. Scarring can last for years. It often causes long-term sensitivity to sunlight, and may cause blindness if the sap is exposed to the eye.

Dr. Beth Jamison of Livonia Veterinary Hospital said, They'll [people] brush against the sap or potentially have exposure to the seeds, and then that area becomes sensitized to the sun and then later will blister. It can blister years down the road. This stuff can cause blindness. You shouldn't even touch it.

The giant hogweed can grow up to 14 feet tall when flowering. The leaves are deeply cut and the stem hollow with purple blotches and coarse white hairs.

Veterinarian Jamison said animals can easily brush up against the sap or seeds or graze on weed itself.

Horses and cows have a real problem if they eat it, said Jamison. Any area that isn't covered in hair or dark hair can become sensitized to the sun, and it blisters and they have a real problem.

The DEC says people can control the giant hogweed by cutting through the plant root, using herbicide or removing flowers and seed heads. Again they warn, do not touch the plant with your bare skin, and beware of any sap or seeds that you or your clothing may have been exposed to.

If you see a giant hogweed, the DEC says to take pictures of the entire plant and email them to You may also call the Giant Hogweed Hotline: 1-(845)-256-3111. If it is giant hogweed, the DEC will contact you and may want to visit to assess the site.

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Washington Times