A "giant horror plant" that can cause blindness and severe burns has been found in the Hudson Valley.

The Giant hogweed, Heracleum mantegazzianum, made news last week after it was found in Virginia for the first time. However, this very dangerous plant that Science Alert calls a "giant horror plant," is found all over New York State, including in the Hudson Valley, according to the DEC.

"Do Not Touch This Plant," the DEC warns on its website.

VT Massey Herbarium

The plant, seen above, is a federally listed noxious weed. Its sap, when mixed with moisture and sunlight, can cause severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, permanent scarring and even blindness, according to the DEC.

The plant's sap prevents your skin from protecting itself from sunlight which leads to a very bad sunburn. Heat and moisture worsen your skin's reaction. Pain can begin as soon as 15 minutes after contact.

A Giant hogweed plant can grow up to 14 feet or taller, according to the DEC. Its hollow, ridged stems grow 2-4 inches in diameter and have dark reddish-purple blotches. Its white flower heads can grow over 2.5 feet in diameter.

For more photos of the plant and how to identify it view the DEC's Giant Hogweed Identification page.

The plant grows along streams, rivers, fields, forests, yards and roadsides. It likes open sites with lots of light and moist soil but it can grow in shaded areas.

The map below shows the current confirmed locations of giant hogweed sites in New York State in 2018.

DEC

Symptoms: 

  • Painful blisters that form within 48 hours and become dark and pigmented
  • Scars that can last up to six years
  • Long-term sensitivity to sunlight
  • Blindness may occur if the sap gets into the eye

Saftey Precautions: 

  • Do not touch the plant with bare skin
  • Do not touch your bare skin with sap covered gloves
  • Prevent UV sunlight from reaching skin by wearing long waterproof gloves, long sleeves, pants, boots
  • Wash clothes that may have contacted plants
  • Wash equipment with water immediately after use
  • Avoid using a weed-whacker as sap may splatter
  • Keep water, soap, and eye-wash near work area in case of exposure

If Exposed:

  • Wash area with soap and cold water as soon as possible
  • Keep exposed area away from sunlight for two days
  • If a reaction occurs, topical steroids can decrease the severity of the reaction
  • If sap goes in eyes, rinse with water and wear sunglasses
  • If exposed, your skin might be sensitive to sunlight for a few years and it's advised you use sunblock or keep the area covered from the sun

If you think you've spotted the plant email the DEC  high-resolution photos of the entire plant, stem, leaves, flowers and seeds or call the Giant Hogweed Hotline: 1-845-256-3111.

More information about the plant can be found here.