Giant Hogweed in the News

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Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) in Pennsylvania

By Melissa A. Bravo, M.S. Weed Science, Invasive Species Specialist

Hi everyone, over the past few weeks, a plant called Giant Hogweed has been in the news and I am sure you have been wondering if we have any around here. Hogweed is a member of the carrot family, a large member! The flower looks very much like Queen Anne’s lace only it is the size of a hula hoop. The sap can cause severe burns if the juice is not washed off and your skin is exposed to sunlight for an extended period of time. This is called a phyto-photo-dermatitis reaction and it can result in a severe 2nd and even a 3rd degree burn in extreme cases. Unfortunately, it is also highly invasive once it hits the riparian corridor and moves out into the flood plain during flooding instances. Because it is a federal noxious weed it is illegal to plant, sell or trade this plant. Mostly what we see now are wild populations that keep spreading. Many homeowners still have this plant in their landscape beds and are just unaware of the program or the problem.

I was the Giant Hogweed Program Manager for Pennsylvania from 2005 to 2012. I recently conducted a radio interview on the plant and its poisonous attributions. Here is a link to The Poison Terminator podcast Go to!0329c

PA Program: Pennsylvania discovered its first wild population of giant hogweed in 1985 in Erie County two years after the federal government declared the plant a noxious weed. GH has probably been in Pennsylvania since the early 1900’s but only in the last 25 years have wild populations been reported to officials. Rochester, NY has records of plant sightings dating to the early 1900’s.

In 1983, the United States Department of Agriculture Plant Pest Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) declared the plant a federal noxious weed and targeted giant hogweed (GH) for eradication nationwide. As of 2011, GH had been found in 18 states and in Canada. It was added to the PA Noxious Weed Control List in 2000. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) and USDA/APHIS launched the GH Hotline in 1998 and created a national giant hogweed campaign to promote awareness of this poisonous plant.

As of 2012, the last year I worked on the program, 453 sites have been found in 17 PA counties. My crew and I worked throughout the state educating homeowners and eradicating the infestations with mechanical and chemical control measures. The closest population to Tioga County was in Potter County along the streambank below Carter Camp to Ole’ Bull Park. More than 55% of the Pennsylvania populations were found in Erie County. Nearby sites are known in Crawford, Mercer, McKean, Venango, and Warren Counties. Isolated sites are also known from Elk, Potter, Butler, Blair, Huntingdon, Carbon, and Wayne counties.

The state wide targeted eradication program was very successful and we declared 325 of these sites eradicated in 2012. As of 2012, only 74 (16%) of the 453 known sites in Pennsylvania remained active. However stream bank sites must always be monitored as seed may be reintroduced during flooding events.
New York began its eradication program in 2011 and quickly identified more than 900 sites in 35 counties. Here is the link to the NY program

If you have any questions or concerns about poisonous plants on your property please give me a call.

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