The symptoms and sometimes permanent injuries of simply brushing against giant hogweed weed has it living up to its nickname the 'Horror Plant' as it's nothing less than horrific.

Giant hogweed is a Federally listed noxious weed. Its sap, in combination with moisture and sunlight, can cause severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, permanent scarring, and blindness. Holy Cow! This stuff is all over CNY!


Stay clear of this weed. All you need to do is brush against for a serious situation to occur as you can see in the photos below from the Department of    Environmental Conservation (DEC)When giant hogweed (GH) sap comes into contact with contact human skin in conjunction with sunlight, serious skin inflammation can result. In brief, the sap prevents your skin from protecting itself from sunlight which leads to a very bad sunburn. Heat and moisture can worsen the skin reaction and can begin as soon as 15 minutes after contact, with sensitivity peak between 30 minutes and two hours after contact.

DEC.NY.GOV Photo credit: Bob Kleinberg

What to do if you come into contact with giant hogweed sap:

  • Wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and COLD water as soon as possible
  • Keep exposed area away from sunlight for 48 hours
  • If a reaction occurs, topical steroids applied early can reduce the severity of the reaction and ease discomfort
  • If sap goes in eyes, rinse them with water and wear sunglasses
  • If a reaction has occurred, the area of skin may be sensitive to sunlight for a few years and you may want to apply sunblock or keep the affected area covered from the sun when possible
  • See a physician if you have a reaction or any questions

Giant hogweed is encroaching on backyards all over CNY. and you need to be able to identify this weed to keep you and your family safe.

The DEC says giant hogweed is a biennial or perennial herb in the carrot family (Apiaceae) which can grow to 14 feet or more. Its hollow, ridged stems grow 2-4 inches in diameter and have dark reddish-purple blotches. Its large compound leaves can grow up to 5 feet wide. Its white flower heads can grow up to 2 1/2 feet in diameter. You're encouraged to study the pictures below.

White flowers with 50-150 flower rays clustered into an umbrella-shaped flower cluster up to 2.5 feet across.


Between 7 and 14 feet tall (depending upon growth stage and if mowed or cut).


Huge leaves, incised and deeply lobed up to 5 feet across.


Stems are green with extensive purple splotches and prominent coarse white hairs. Stems are also hollow, ridged, 2-4 inches in diameter, and have a thick circle of hairs at base of leaf stalk.


The most common plant misidentified as giant hogweed is cow parsnip. See the differences here.

I've only skimmed the surface of all the information available on giant hogweed. There's so much more to learn at the DEC Website. This is scary stuff so please take it seriously.

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