Massachusetts is stepping up efforts to eradicate a giant invasive plant that emits a toxic sap that can cause painful, burning blisters on human skin.
The state Department of Agricultural Resources has released an updated list of communities where the giant hogweed has been confirmed and is asking people to keep an eye out for new infestations. Anyone who thinks they see hogweed is urged to avoid touching it and instead contact the state.
Control efforts are currently underway in 14 communities, from Acton and Dover in eastern Massachusetts to West Springfield and Hinsdale farther west.
The full list includes:
- Martha's Vineyard
- New Marlborough
- West Springfield
The weed has already been eradicated from nine communities.
The giant hogweed can grow up to 15 feet high and has umbrella-shaped canopies of flowers that can grow to 2 feet in diameter.
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Randy Polillio, a manager at Polillio’s Garden Center in Stoughton studied the poisonous plant in college. He said it is often confused with other weeds like Queen Anne’s Lace, but the hogweed is a lot taller and the flowers are much larger, with a lot more seeds that can easily spread.
"It’s like a weed, once you get them, they just keep on coming," Polillio said.
Katie Gronendyke, the press secretary for the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs released the following statement about hogweed Monday:
"The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources is committed to the protection of residents and natural resources and will continue to work with landowners to eradicate any known populations of Giant Hogweed. In an effort to ensure public safety, the Department advises residents to be aware of the physical characteristics of Giant Hogweed, avoid direct contact with suspected plants, and report any sightings to state agricultural officials."
Anyone who spots giant hogweed in their area is asked to report it to the state Department of Agricultural Resources: https://massnrc.org/pests/hogweedreport.aspx