Sterling (WSYR-TV/AP) - A dangerous plant could be growing on your land. Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)
can cause second degree burns if it touches your skin, and the State is sending specially-trained teams to dig it out wherever it grows.
The invasive species is a monster plant with flowers the size of umbrellas and sap that causes blisters and blindness. It is listed as a noxious weed by the federal government.
The Department of Environmental Conservation is asking for help locating outbreaks so they can send crews to nip it in the bud. In fact, the agency has a Giant Hogweed Hotline at 845-256-3111 for people to call and report sightings. Callers are asked to provide photos and site information, but avoid touching the plant.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation already knows of a few plants currently growing in Clay, Elbridge, and Stafford, and asks that neighbors watch their yards to see if more plants pop up.
"The goal is to eradicate it from the whole state," said Josh Slocum, a member of the DEC's hogweed team. "The sap can just kind of pool at the base of the stem, so when you're digging you want to be careful."
The DEC's giant hogweed team wants to prevent the plant from growing and spreading. They'll travel wherever the plant is found to clip its flowers, dig up the roots, and possibly even spray herbicide to prevent future growth.
"Just want to keep digging down and make sure little pieces aren't left," said Andrew Lee, another member of the DEC's team.
Giant hogweed has the ability to triple its size in just one month. That's why it's important to catch it as a sapling and cut the flowers off before the seeds are able to spread.
However, it can be difficult to find the plant while it is young. It may not have developed the identifying characteristics, a tall stalk and a cluster of massive white flowers.
"That's wild parsnip, which looks something like it but it's smaller. It'd be about twice the size of this stuff," said SUNY ESF's Lawrence Abrahamson. More information about this noxious plant and how to identify it are available on the DEC's website
. The agency also says it is safer to call their giant hogweed team for help rather than tackling this dangerous plant yourself.
So far this year, the giant hogweed team has already received hundreds of calls.