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Title: Man fights to keep giant hogweed
Source: Democrat & Chronicle
URL Source: http://www.democratandchronicle.com ... e-over-giant-hogweed/86595536/
Published: Jul 3, 2016
Author: Steve Orr
Post Date: 2016-07-03 08:57:20 by Willie Green
Keywords: None
Views: 1306
Comments: 4

It’s not Chris Costanza the machinery of the state wants to squash like a bug.

It’s his plants.

Neighbors have complained to the authorities about his plants. The town of Irondequoit thinks they're dangerous. The state of New York wants badly to uproot them.

Costanza doesn't care. He insists he has a very good reason to protect the plants that everyone else wants dead.

“New York is kind of a nanny state,” he said. “It’s my land. If I want to have a giant hogweed growing there, I can have a giant hogweed growing there."

Ah. Giant hogweed.

Indeed, this state-versus-individual conflict is centered on Costanza’s right to grow giant hogweed, the otherworldly invasive species that produces sap so toxic it can leave a person blind or scarred for life.

The striking but poisonous plants can be found on a 9.4-acre piece of undeveloped property on the slopes above Irondequoit Bay owned by a family company started by Costanza, an architect who lives and works in Brighton. The property is in the city of Rochester but is bordered by undeveloped parcels owned by the town of Irondequoit, beyond which lie residential subdivisions.

Costanza's long thin piece of land, wooded and damp, is dotted with old apple trees and split by a small stream. Costanza thinks it likely was the stream that carried in hogweed seeds from some distant place. The plants, an overgrown member of the carrot-parsley family, sprouted and have flourished.

Two years ago, Costanza's giant hogweed came to the attention of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. He thinks a neighbor ratted him out.

The environmental agency, which considers the plant a noxious weed, has sent crews a-roaming every summer since 2008, charged with killing every giant hogweed plant they can — 5.7 million of them so far, give or take.

The plant, native to the Caucasus region where Asia and Europe meet, was imported as an ornamental plant to the United States more than a century ago. New York is a hotbed of giant hogweed infestation.

When the DEC asked in 2014 to add his plants to their body count, Costanza allowed a control specialist on his property. She removed the seed heads — a single plant can produce several hundred thousand seeds — and later removed some of the plants as well, Costanza said.

But last summer, when the agency asked if they could come back to kill off the remaining hogweed, he said no.

Behind the change of heart lies a tale.

"I have a personal interest in it"

Months after the control specialist's first visit to his hogweed patch, a member of Costanza's family developed vitiligo, a skin disorder marked by the absence of melanin, the pigment that gives color to skin and hair.

Costanza researched the disease. He learned that the sap of giant hogweed contains compounds, furocoumarins, that make skin so sensitive to sunlight that it burns. They also create an over-abundance of melanin.

This struck Costanza — someone he knew with too little melanin and a plant at hand that creates too much of it. Perhaps, he thought, the compounds in the giant hogweed sap could provide a treatment for vitiligo.

He resolved to keep the plants intact on his property to provide a source of furocoumarins for study. “I don’t want to take away the potential for doing medical research,” Costanza said.

In fact, furocoumarins have been used for years to treat skin disorders, including vitiligo. Some say the practice dates back centuries.

But Costanza said more study is needed — he suggested he just might do it himself — and his stand of giant hogweed could play a role.

So it stays. The DEC hogweed-killers inquired again this year and were told, emphatically, to keep out.

"I have a personal interest in it," he said. "I just didn’t feel that the state should remove that plant from the property. There’s giant hogweed in hundreds of places around the state, even in hundreds of places around the city of Rochester. I don’t see it as that big a concern."

Officials beg to differ, however.

"Our staff has been concerned about it from the start. Frankly, it’s pretty irresponsible of this man because there are children that play there," said Irondequoit Town Supervisor David Seeley. "It needs to be made very clear to this homeowner that this is dangerous and even if he’s doing it for scientific reasons, he needs to be mindful of that."

Costanza posted no-trespassing signs this spring to thwart DEC, but his land isn't fenced and he knows that people do visit. He said he's not aware of anyone being harmed by his plants, but acknowledged the possibility and said he could put warning signs around the hogweed "if it would make the neighbors more comfortable."

Noxious weed laws

There is no state law that gives DEC the right to conduct hogweed eradication on private property without permission, spokeswoman Linda Vera said. And 15 times last year, DEC staff were turned away from giant hogweed patches by their owners.

If the local municipality has a noxious-weed ordinance, the DEC can and does ask that it be invoked to force property owners to get rid of the plants, Vera said.

It turns out the city of Rochester has just such an ordinance. City officials were informed of the situation Thursday. Spokeswoman Jessica Alaimo said Friday that staff will meet with counterparts in Irondequoit to learn more.

But for now, Costanza believes he remains beyond the reach of the state.

"Until people that have a fear of giant hogweed ... make some law, giant hogweed is legal to have growing on your property," he said. "If it’s existing, there’s no law that you have to remove it."

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#1. To: buckeroo, deckard, willie green, fred mertz (#0)






If you ... don't use exclamation points --- you should't be typeing ! Commas - semicolons - question marks are for girlie boys !

BorisY  posted on  2016-07-03   12:26:55 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

#2. To: Willie Green (#0)

Five children left 'screaming in agony' when they suffer severe burns from toxic hogweed plant found growing in park

Roscoe  posted on  2016-07-03   12:38:17 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

#3. To: Willie Green, Boondocks, Uncle Ruckus (#0)

a member of Costanza's family developed vitiligo, a skin disorder marked by the absence of melanin, the pigment that gives color to skin and hair.

Perhaps, he thought, the compounds in the giant hogweed sap could provide a treatment for vitiligo. He resolved to keep the plants intact on his property to provide a source of furocoumarins for study. “I don’t want to take away the potential for doing medical research,” Costanza said.

Medical research may provide a cure for Uncle Ruckus' condition, Revitiligo.

The D&R terrorists hate us because we're free, to vote second party
"We (government) need to do a lot less, a lot sooner" ~Ron Paul

Hondo68  posted on  2016-07-03   13:14:34 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

#4. To: Willie Green (#0)

I have literally seen hundreds of these plants in Western Washington while painting houses. It seems that many people think these plants look nice, but they are a bit fragile as they bust off when a drop cloth is laid on them.

jeremiad  posted on  2016-07-06   13:04:05 ET  Reply   Trace   Private Reply  

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