Dangerous Plant Alert: northeast USA

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Thu, May 23, 2013 - 1:37pm

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has put this plant near the top of its Federal Noxious Weed list. Officials in Washington are asking residents to be on the lookout for it so they can eradicate it. In New York a hotline has been set up so residents can easily report sightings, and crews in several states are seeking it out and destroying it. To date it has been reported in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Vermont. The plant is the giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)...

Showy blossoms. People want to touch it. Big mistate. The plant’s clear, watery sap works with moisture and sunlight in a reaction called phytophotodermatitis. People coming into contact with the sap develop large, painful blisters that resemble severe sunburn.

Officials warn those who think they’ve found a giant hogweed plant to stay away from it, keep pets and livestock from grazing on it, and make sure children and pets don’t play around it. There are reports of people getting burned by playing with cats and dogs who’ve gotten the sap on their fur.


Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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a clarification

The stuff is like three feet tall. Hard to miss.

GM_Man's picture
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Larger than that!

I just checked out the images of the Giant Hogweed on Google images.

It is not unusual for this plant to grow over 6 foot tall (>2 Meters).  So it is easy to spot.  The flowers could be over your head!



Amanda Witman's picture
Amanda Witman
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Sounds like poison parsnip on steroids

I have a friend who was terribly burned by poison/wild parsnip in northern Vermont a few years back.

These giant hogweeds sound like they're so big, they are easily identifiable.  What other plant has queen-anne's-lace-like flowers a foot or more in diameter?  Huge.

That said, I've never seen it.  But I will sure be on the lookout.  Thanks for posting this, Wendy.

(Also, in a quick Google search, the first reference I found says it's 15 feet tall.  Anyone want to go higher?)

Nervous Nelly's picture
Nervous Nelly
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Poison Parsnip = Hemlock

Smells like parsnip. 2 kinds. Leaves resemble parsley ,dark green. Stems purple spotted and hollow.. Deadly poisonous. Irritant to skin.

Poison Hemlock ( Conium masculatum) up to 10 feet high. Mainly in disturbed sites such as fencerows, roadsides ,stream and river banks , old fields and vacant lots.

Water Hemlock ( Cirutus masculata) up to 6 1/2 high. Wet sites such as swamps. stream and river banks, ditches and bottom lands. 

My son came home with large blisters on his hands when he was 4. I thought he had burnt himself. 

Grandma knew exactly what it was and put calamine on it. Knowlegde passed on.


Doug's picture
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Giant Hogweed

Giant hogweed is well known in western NY and has been here for at least three decades that I know of.  There is an active program to eradicate it, but some people like it for gardens.  It's a very impressive plant.


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