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December 12, 1980

Keep away from that 'tree,' folks!

JAMA. 1980;244(23):2596. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310230006003

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Two western New York boys found an unusual wildflower last summer and decided to pick it. They are not likely to forget that decision, because they have spent most of the weeks since then recovering from blisters on their hands, arms, and legs.

The boys had encountered Heracleum mantegazzianum, a giant hogweed of the parsley family and a cousin to the cow parsnip. Heracleum mantegazzianum comes from Russia, but hardly with love—at least for most humans—and now is causing some of the same medical concern in New York State that it did in the coastal regions of Britain a decade ago.

The weed is a giant, ranging from 3 to more than 4.5 m in height with leaves 1 m in length. Its presence has been documented in 12 central and western New York counties so far this year. Fall and winter weather have halted its spread for now, but