Invasive plant with toxic sap back on Long Island

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Stacey Sager has details on hogweed, a potentially dangerous plant turning up on Long Island. (AP Photo/Steve Miller)

A giant invasive plant with toxic sap that can burn human skin has again turned up on Long Island, according to environmental officials.

The plant is a native of the Caucasus region of Eurasia, between the Black and Caspian seats. It was brought to the United Kingdom and to the United States in 1917 as an ornamental plant, and it can grow to as high as 20 feet and sprout 3-foot leaves.

It's fast-growing, invading roadsides, the edges of forests and empty lots. It also produces thousands of seeds, which can be dispersed by flowing water or animals. The most common way it spreads, however, is by humans who are attracted by its size and decide to plant it.

Hogweed is mostly a problem in central and western New York, but it has also been found in 13 places in Long Island, in both Suffolk and Nassau counties. They include: East Norwich and Sea Cliff in Nassau and Riverhead, East Hampton, Southampton, Brookhaven and Yaphank in Suffolk.

Giant hogweed can crowd out native species and its sap contains glucosides that react with the sun's ultraviolet rays and can severely burn the skin, cause blisters or cause temporary blindness.

It's also been found in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Maine, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Washington.

Sometimes called giant cow parsley, giant hogweed is listed as a prohibited species. That means the plant isn't widespread and so far has been found only in isolated spots but likely will spread if not controlled.

Its stem spotted with purple sap can cause what feels like a blistering burn that can take months to fade and will make you forever sensitive to the sun.

"If you do think you have it, wash immediately with soap and water. If you get it in your eyes, it could cause blindness," said John Wernet of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

If you are unsure and think a plant is hogweed, you can email photos to: There is also a hotline you can call, at 845-256-3111.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
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