As the seasons change, Giant Hogweed is starting to grow all over the Rochester area. While it may seem harmless, the invasive weed can pose as a severe threat to health.

The weed ranges anywhere from 6 to 15 feet in height, characterized best by a thick bright green stalk covered with coarse hairs and purple splotches. Native to the western Caucuses, the Giant Hogweed was first introduced to America in the 1900s as an ornamental plant. Since then, it has spread outside of cultivation all over the country. The Hogweed is especially prevalent in Western New York and the Finger Lakes, found across the Rochester and Buffalo areas.

While the weed may appear inconsequential, it provides a severe health risk to you and your family. Brushing against or breaking the plant releases sap that, combined with sunlight and moisture, can cause a severe burn within 24 to 48 hours. These burns can cause permanent scars and damage to the skin.

If you think you have Hogweed in your yard, it is important to verify the species. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has resources on its website to help you identify if your plant is Hogweed. If your plant is indeed Hogweed, the DEC offers a Hogweed control program free of charge to the landowner.

For more information on the Giant Hogweed, the DEC and Cornell Cooperative Extension have extensive resources on the weed and how to keep safe from its dangers.