There is a massive weed popping up all over New York state that can cause skin irritation, blistering, scarring, and even blindness just from touching it! Thankfully, officials have just renewed efforts to battle this hellish weed this year.
According to the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), giant hogweed has been identified as an invasive species in New York state since 1998. By 2008, the DEC implemented manual control of the weed, situating removal crews based on NYS Department of Agriculture & Markets (NYSDAM) area surveys and individual reports.
This action was certainly taken in part because the invasive weed is harmful to humans. According to the DEC, "It's sap, in combination with moisture and sunlight, can cause severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, permanent scarring and blindness." The sap normally can only inflict its damage if a person brushes bare skin against its bristles or makes contact with a broken stem or leaves.
The plant is also terribly damaging to native species. This hogweed isn't deemed "giant" just for kicks. Commonly growing more than 14 feet tall, the weed grows exceptionally fast and with its wide leaves can effectively "hog" all the sunlight in a specific area.
After new instances of the plant were reported in Long Island and the western New York area last year, DEC Commissioner Joseph Martins recently told local press that the "DEC is making great strides towards eradicating giant hogweed in New York."
"Every property where giant hogweed can be removed increases biodiversity and helps to make outdoor areas safe for people to enjoy," he said. "It is important to raise public awareness to make sure that people know how to identify this plant, know not to touch it, know how to report it and know how to eradicate it."
Since 2006, the DEC has used state and federal funding to effectively eradicate giant hogweed from 149 sites, with nearly 1,100 more supposedly under control. However, there are still nearly 1,200 sites infested with the plants as of 2013.
If you think you have hogweed on your property, DO NOT TOUCH IT or attempt to remove it yourself. Instead, take pictures of it and contact the DEC following these instructions.
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