PUTNAM COUNTY, N.Y. - The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said last week it is making strides to control giant hogweed, a large, invasive, and dangerous plant that plagues regions of New York State, including parts of Putnam County.

The Giant Hogweed Program, managed by DEC's Division of Lands and Forests, is in its 12th year and has eradicated the plants from 623 sites, with another 448 plant-free sites being monitored. Some sites remain in Putnam, however.

"With the assistance of our local partners, DEC's Giant Hogweed Program has made excellent progress in removing this dangerous invasive from New York communities," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "The DEC not only works to eradicate this health hazard, but also to raise public awareness about how to recognize it, avoid it, and report it. We urge New Yorkers to stay vigilant and report potential giant hogweed to DEC, especially during the next few weeks as the plants begin to bloom and become more noticeable."

Sign Up for E-News

Giant hogweed can cause severe skin and eye irritation, including painful burns and scarring when skin exposed to its sap becomes more sensitive to UV radiation. As a noxious weed, is unlawful to propagate, sell, or transport. In addition to health concerns, giant hogweed negatively impacts the state's ecosystem by crowding out native plants and contributing to soil erosion.

Over the years, the DEC and its regional and municipal partners have confirmed 2,484 giant hogweed sites in 51 counties. A map on the DEC website shows that Putnam County, in particular, has multiple sites where the dangerous plant has been found. With landowner permission, crews visit and remove these invasive plants using root-cutting, herbicide, and umbel (flower head) removal control methods.

DEC released a report last week that details the progress being made to identify giant hogweed and eradicate it. The report says that last year:

• Crews visited 1,993 sites to survey for or control giant hogweed;

• No plants were found for the third consecutive year at 118 sites, bringing the total number of eradicated sites to 623, an increase of 25 percent from 2017;

• Of all sites previously treated for infestation, 43 percent (1,071 sites) had no plants in 2018;

• Crews removed approximately 678,000 plants from 1,271 sites during the 2018 field season;

• Stream surveys were conducted for the first time last year. Crews searched upstream for additional infestations that may have contributed to known giant hogweed locations from seeds being carried downstream. A two-person crew visited 317 stream-side properties, surveyed 37.6 miles of stream frontage, and found 76 new infestations;

• Of the sites statewide that still had plants, 71 percent (1,005) had less than 100 plants and are considered small sites that can be eradicated relatively quickly. DEC expects many more of these sites to have no new plants in the next few years; and

• Larger sites are responding well to control. Many larger sites that required herbicide treatment are now small enough to be treated by root cutting. Fewer sites have large flowering plants and, in general, sites are patchier than in previous years.

Seggos said that in addition to working with regional and municipal partners, the public has been an invaluable partner in DEC's Giant Hogweed Program by submitting about 2,000 location reports via phone calls and e-mails each year. Giant hogweed is currently flowering, making this one of the easiest times of the year to locate the plant. Flowering giant hogweed are 8 to 14 feet tall and have large, flat-topped clusters of small white flowers, a green stem with purple blotches and coarse white hairs, and large leaves up to five feet across.

If a member of the public finds giant hogweed, they should not touch the plant’ instead, take photos of the entire plant (stem, leaves, flower, seeds), note the location, and send a report with the information via email to ghogweed@dec.ny.gov, text to 518-320-0309, or call the Information Line at 845-256-3111. If confirmed, DEC will contact the landowner to discuss control options. To report and learn more about other invasive species, the public can use the iMapInvasives database and mapping tool that helps share and coordinate information about detections and response efforts.

New York State is taking a comprehensive approach to reduce the negative impacts of invasive species through control or removal activities, research, and spread prevention. Recently, Gov. Cuomo announced more than $2.8 million in grants to DEC's partners across the state for a variety of projects to address invasive species, including giant hogweed. From July 7-13, New York State will hold Invasive Species Awareness Week featuring statewide events that encourage New Yorkers to help protect the state's resources from the negative impacts of invasive species.

For more information about giant hogweed, including eradication efforts, plant ID, or to view the 2018 annual report, visit www.dec.ny.gov