King County Noxious Weed Control Program specialists were in West Seattle again today – for the second time this week, removing an infestation of a plant that’s one of the most noxious they tackle: Giant hogweed.
We contacted them after two WSB readers suggested we follow up on TV reports about a patch of this weed getting removed in West Seattle earlier this week. Sasha Shaw answered our inquiry and explained, it’s not that West Seattle is a particular hotbed of giant hogweed, but rather, the TV folks contacted her looking for a local angle on a story from the East Coast about someone getting badly burned by this weed, and it just so happened that West Seattle was where their most-recent report of a giant hogweed happened to be. Here’s a photo from that first stop, in the Genesee Hill area, on Tuesday:
Shaw is the communications specialist for the program, which is part of the county Natural Resources and Parks department. She explains, “Our program has the big job of stopping the spread of state-regulated noxious weeds such as giant hogweed throughout King County, including in the cities. For the Class A noxious weeds such as giant hogweed, which are limited in distribution in the state, we offer to help people with the control work because of the huge public benefit to stopping these highly invasive and damaging plants from becoming established. Giant hogweed also poses a serious health risk because of the potential of the sap to cause burns and blisters.”
(Here’s their info sheet about giant hogweed, so you can find out more about it.)
She also clarified that the removals in Genesee on Tuesday and Admiral today aren’t the first discoveries of this scary weed in our area: “We have responded to locations of this plant in West Seattle many times. It isn’t the neighborhood in Seattle with the most giant hogweed, but we have found several hundred sites there over the past 15 or so years that we have been working on this plant. We typically find some new sites every year, but more locations are closed than opened as the plants get controlled.”
She points out that you can use the county’s map to “zoom in and see the locations of all the giant hogweed sites we have found in West Seattle, as well as other regulated noxious weeds.” Go to https://gismaps.kingcounty.gov/iMap/ – and, she advises, “turn on the Noxious Weeds layer, select ‘Most Widespread Noxious Weeds,’ zoom in to West Seattle and look for the little green icons that look like pine trees.”
She continued: “At this point, most of the giant hogweed in West Seattle, and other parts of the city, is out of sight in ravines, alleys and backyards. Typically we find new sites when people contact us either about their own hogweed or their neighbor’s plants. Hogweed spends several years as small plants and can be inconspicuous especially in areas overgrown with other vegetation like blackberry. When they flower they are 10 to 15 feet tall so that is often when people discover them. Sometimes people get burned by the sap while working in the yard and then contact us to find out what they have. That’s what happened in the case of the West Seattle homeowner that was featured on KING5 News, although they actually got burned last year but didn’t know why until they found a flowering plant in their alley and identified it online. … People do get seriously burned by this plant so getting the word out as widely as possible is very important.” Also note, this is already toward the end of giant hogweed’s season, and most of the plants are dying back.
This isn’t the only “big problem” noxious weed/invasive plant out there – “but few that are regulated noxious weeds, highly dangerous to people and very invasive,” Shaw notes. We’re going to take her up on her offer to talk with us for a separate story about other weeds you should watch for. (You can start reading about them all here!)