Giant Hogweed: People Warned to Stay Away from Giant Hogweed

Hogweed (www.dec.ny.gov/)

New York State has warned its residents to watch out for the giant hogweed. Hogweed, or Heracleum mantegazzianum, came from the Caucasus Mountains. This plant has the power to cause severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, permanent scarring, and blindness from its sap, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Hogweed can be dangerous because it causes burning of the skin when exposed to ultraviolet light. People can become affected by the sap from the plant which occurs either through”brushing against the bristles on the stem or breaking the stem or leaves,” according to the DEC.

The Register reports that hogweed spread to Europe and the UK in the late nineteenth century, and it moved to America in the early twentieth century. The DEC said that hogweed was originally used in the United States as an “ornamental garden plant”.

Hogweed can be seen in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, Oregon, Michigan, Vermont, Virginia, Maine, and New Hampshire. It may start to show up in other states from birds carrying the seeds, since the seeds can still be intact for over ten years.

This is the fourth year that the DEC has had to deal with the problem of hogweed. The DEC has six plant “SWAT” teams to take all of the hogweed out in New York State. There are 944 known hogweed sites in the state. The DEC has advised residents that if they see a hogweed, they must not go near it, but rather take a photo of it, and send its location to the DEC.

According to World Citizen, there was a similar scare of the hogweed during the 1970s, which provoked the band, Genesis, to record a song called “Return of the Giant Hogweed”:

Turn and run!
Nothing can stop them,
Around every river and canal their power is growing.
Stamp them out!
We must destroy them,
They infiltrate each city with their thick dark warning ordour.