Contact with giant hogweed can cause blindness, officials warn

July 27, 2011

Albany, NY – New York officials are warning residents about a large weed that can cause rashes, burning blisters and even blindness.

Giant hogweed, which is not native to the United States, can grow as tall as 15 feet and features small clusters of white flowers resembling Queen Anne’s lace. In late summer, the flowers are replaced by small green fruit that turns brown. In addition to New York, giant hogweed has been reported in Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

Contact with the plant’s clear, watery sap can cause blindness, black or purple scars, and burning blisters within 24-48 hours. If exposed to the sap, avoid sunlight and wash the sap off immediately. Using sunscreen on the affected area may help prevent further reaction. If you believe you have been burned by a giant hogweed, contact your physician.

If you encounter a giant hogweed, do not touch it, and do not attempt to mow or cut it down. Instead, report it to your state’s department of invasive species (New York State has a dedicated hotline at 845-256-3111).