June 16, 2013
Giant Hogweed Invades, Threatens New York City

Public health officials are warning New York City residents to steer clear of a growing menace on the streets of New York.

It's not a new form of crime or illness- a scary plant called Giant Hogweed is taking over, bringing with it the possibility of third-degree burns. Giant Hogweed looks pretty- for a flowerless plant- and can produce stunning foliage to enhance a garden. But the plant also shames poison ivy when it comes to injuring humans, and can cause burns, scarring and even permanent blindness.

The Department of Environmental Conservation in New York has set up a hotline, and experts say to avoid the plant, especially in warm weather:

In the words of Charles O'Neill, coordinator of the Cornell Invasive Species Program, hogweed is like "Queen Anne's lace with an attitude." Specimens of the megaflora grow "more than 10 feet tall with two-inch thick stems, flowers two or more feet across and leaf clusters as wide as you can stretch your arms..." If you see it, "stay clear!" O'Neill warns. Hogweed is New York's most striking, dangerous and invasive plant, and its sap "can make a case of poison ivy seem like a mild itch."
Have you spotted Giant Hogweed in the wild? Ever have a close encounter with it?