WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (WENY) -- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer paid a visit to Clute Park Wednesday afternoon, taking on an invasive weed experts say is running rampant through the Southern Tier.
Giant Hogweed, which is native to Asia, can grow to be 20 feet tall, with white, umbrella-shaped flowers.
"It doesn't sound menacing, but it is," warned Schumer "This plant is no joke."
If touched, the plant's poisonous sap can cause blisters, burns and even blindness.
"We're asking the USDA to support the Department of Environmental Conservation here in the state," says Schumer. "That collaboration has already produced some results here in Schuyler county, but the USDA just comes and goes."
Schumer is now calling for adequate support to take on the species' growing population.
According to the state DEC, there were just under 500 active Giant Hogweed sites back in 2008. Now, that number has spiked, with over 1,700 sites counted as of last year.
Schumer says taking the species down will be a mulch-faceted approach. Something he claims is currently lacking: education.
"We need education because hogweed needs to be treated differently than other invasive species," says Schumer. "What we've found with invasive species is if you don't take care of them, they get worse and worse and worse."
Schumer was joined by local leaders and Cornell Cooperative Extension.