ALBANY, N.Y. - A monster plant with flowers the size of umbrellas and sap that causes blisters and blindness is spreading across New York.
It's the giant hogweed, an invasive species, and the Department of Environmental Conservation is asking for help locating outbreaks so they can send crews to nip it in the bud.
The agency has a Giant Hogweed Hotline at 845-256-3111 for people to call and report sightings. Callers are asked to provide photos and site information, but avoid touching the plant.
This is DEC's fourth year of controlling giant hogweed. Six crews totaling 14 people will visit most of the 944 known giant hogweed sites. Sites with less than 400 plants will be controlled by hand cutting their roots; sites with more than 400 plants will be controlled with herbicide.
According to the Village Voice, specimens can grow as tall as 21 feet, and toxins in their sap, combined with exposure to sunlight, can cause blistering so severe that it leaves gruesome black scars for years afterward.
The plant has been spotted in Nassau and Putnam counties.