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Is it poison ivy or poison sumac — no! It’s “poison giant hogweed.” Eeeek!
In 1962, Howard Keel, of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” fame, starred in the sci-fi thriller “The Day of the Triffids.” The apocalyptic flick had Earth in deadly peril (again) from killer plants. After Earth’s inhabitants are blinded by a meteorite shower (I guess blindness added to the horror factor), the humans find themselves the target of predatory plants, who, freed from earthly roots, march (very slowly, of course), across the world (mostly England and Spain) to feed on humanity.
After many lives are lost, except for Howard Keel and a few select B-listers, the wild weeds are whacked by a hose full of seawater turning the feral fauna into creamed spinach. Yech.
Absurd? Outrageous? Only Hollywood could come up with such a tale you, say.
As usual, Hollywood ain’t got nothing on reality.
Payback’s a bitch, and Mother Nature has had enough. She’s sprouted killer plants — no, not Audrey Jr., the carnivorous Venus Fly trap from “Little Shop of Horrors,” but a monster plant with flowers the size of umbrellas whose sap causes blisters and blindness, the Giant Hogweed, Heracleum Mantegassianum, to reign terror upon us sapless, hapless inhabitants of the Empire State.
The Department of Environmental Conservation has plans to keep the Giant Hogweed firmly planted and in check by hand-cutting its roots (in groups of fewer than 400 plants) or using powerful herbicides for larger infestations. You might say it will be nipping it in the bud.
Presently there are approximately some 900 known sites where the lethal leafy plant has been sited, which are mostly in Putnam and Nassau counties, where crews armed with machetes and spray bottles have been dispatched to contain the menace.
But the state cannot win the battle alone, absolutely not and with certitude. It needs the help of every able-bodied New Yorker to seek out, identify and report the locations of the ferocious foliage.
If you suspect that you are under attack and the Giant Hogweed has invaded your backyard, the department advises you to take a picture, for it’s most-wanted. But do not touch it under any circumstance, and do not try to be a hero and tackle the slaying sappy stems yourself. Instead, call the hot-line at (845) 256-3111.
The poisonous perennial typically lives between five and seven years, is pretty big, growing about 12 or more feet tall, has pretty, white, umbrella-like flower clusters, and has been misidentified as Cow Parsnip, Angelica, Wild Parsnip and Poison Hemlock. Double eeek.
Not for Nuthin™, the beastly botanical hasn’t been spotted in my neck of the woods yet, but I’m getting prepared. I have my hose and a bucket of weed-be-gone on standby.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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