If not, then what is it? Should I touch it?

Location: Upstate, NY

Image 1a (about 5 feet tall): enter image description here

More images:

  • Image 1b: https://i.stack.imgur.com/HfRUB.jpg
  • Image 2a (about 2.5 feet tall): https://i.stack.imgur.com/iXHJi.jpg
  • Image 2b: https://i.stack.imgur.com/oTD21.jpg
  • The leaf shape looks like a match, those white flowers in the background look similar, and unless you've done some camera tricks, the height appears to be correct. I'm not a botanist, though, so don't take my word for it. – Ian MacDonald Jun 24 '19 at 13:41
  • Location may also help. I remember the fuss about Giant Hogweed in the UK when I was a kid. An escaped ornamental. Apparently the problem is the sap sensitises the skin to sunlight for some (but not all) people and can result is what is effectively a burn. – winwaed Jun 24 '19 at 13:55
  • @IanMacDonald The white flowers in the background are a separate plant in Image 1a. Image 1a is about 5 feet tall. Image 2a is about 2 1/2 feet tall and no white flowers to be found. – MonkeyZeus Jun 24 '19 at 13:56
  • @winwaed Upstate, NY. I've updated my post with this info. I've also added their rough heights. – MonkeyZeus Jun 24 '19 at 13:57

It looks more like one of the wild lettuce species (Lactuca genus) than hogweed. If it is wild lettuce, then it should bloom yellow this summer.

Here's an excellent photo of giant hogweed: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/gardening/a21598753/giant-hogweed/

As the article accompanying that photo states "The easiest way to identify giant hogweed is to look for purple blotches and white hairs on the stem." I see neither of those on your photos.

  • Do you have any good images of wild lettuce? I will wait and see if they bloom yellow in the meantime. FWIW, I did gently brush my calf up against the shorter plant by accident and I show no signs of a reaction. – MonkeyZeus Jun 24 '19 at 14:07
  • I would not say lettuce, but the family is the same. Too many plants on that family (daisy family), many growth very tall. – Giacomo Catenazzi Jun 24 '19 at 16:00
  • 1
    DEC says it is a species of lettuce. Thanks! – MonkeyZeus Jun 26 '19 at 12:40

Not hogweed...hogweed has palmate leaf venation and this is not. Hog weed is in the Umbelliferae family. This plant is clearly from the Asteraceae family. Kudos to those who mentioned Lactuca which is in the Aster family too. This appears to be the plant commonly known as sow thistle.


It looks enough like Giant Hogweed or Cow Parsnip to warrant serious caution. The leaf shape is quite similar, and you can see small hairs on the detail photo. When identifying dangerous plants, please always err on the side of caution.

In the US there is usually some local public outreach service to help people identify plants. In NY, this would be a good place to start, try calling them: https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/105282.html

  • Thank you, I will contact the DEC – MonkeyZeus Jun 25 '19 at 13:09

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