LIVINGSTON COUNTY – June is the busy season for hogweed hunting teams with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), who are seeking to completely eradicate this noxious and potentially harmful invasive plant from the state.
Jeff Fridman, field technician and crew leader for one of four teams based in Avon, said that crews investigate calls to a hogweed hotline from local residents who think they may have seen the plant, then suit up in protective gear to combat the plants, the sap of which can cause burns to skin.
“The sap causes severe skin irritation, burns, if you will,” said Fridman. “We wear tyvek coveralls, rubber gloves, boots, and eye protection. We kill them one of two ways. One is the simple digging method of cutting the stem from the root with a shovel, which kills the whole plant, but you can’t go to a site with 10,000 plants and shovel them all. We’d be there for days, if not weeks. For any patch over 400, we use an herbicide.”
Fridman said that the plant can be easy to miss despite its incredible 10 to 15-foot height, and this is the busiest time of year for hogweed investigations since the flowers make them especially stand out.
“We maybe get a couple of thousand calls a year for hogweed, especially in this 3-week period when they are flowering, and it dies down when they drop their petals,” said Fridman. “Most people are unaware of the plant, though a 10-foot weed with a 5-foot-across flower seems quite obvious. But it takes a couple to ten years for them to get that big and are easy to miss when they’re immature. We tell people if they see a very very tall white flower, call our hotline and email a picture of it to email@example.com.”
Fridman added that the daunting battle is going well, thanks to tips and help from local communities. Livingston County is one of New York’s most hogweed infested counties, and DEC teams are working constantly to wipe out patches before they go to seed. A DEC map showing active giant hogweed sites across the state can be seen below.
“A lot of sites take 5 to 6 years, sometimes a lot longer, to completely eliminate,” added Fridman. “But it’s not all gloom and doom, of about 1,750 known sites statewide, about 500 are under monitoring and have no visible plants. Some of these are considered eradicated. 1,000 sites have less than 100 plants. We encourage folks to call us if they think they’ve seen hogweed. We’re in a 3-week period where the plant has flowered and is easy to spot, but hasn’t gone to seed so we don’t have spend our hours picking up seeds.”
If you think you see hogweed, call the DEC hogweed hotline at 1-845-256-3111, and send a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org.