What a whopper!

hogweedJust look at the size of that!  Spotted today while driving back from a stint of volunteering, I was completely gobsmacked at the size of this Giant Hogweed. (Over 5 feet in height and with a flower umbrella of about 2 feet wide).

It’s “proper” name is Heracleum mantegazzianum and it is also known as Wild Parsnip, Giant Cow Parsley, Wild Rhubarb and Cartwheel Flower.  Not only is it impressive in size, it’s also POISONOUS!  The sap of Giant Hogweed causes phytophotodermatitis in humans which manifests itself in blisters, long-lasting scars, and—if it comes in contact with eyes—blindness. These serious reactions are due to the furocoumarin derivatives in the leaves, roots, stems, flowers, and seeds of the plant.

Originally introduced into Britain during the 19th century as an ornamental plant (those Victorian plant-hunters have so much to answer for!) it is now found all over the UK and particularly on river banks where it can displace other plants and reduce wildlife.  On the plus side – bees like it!  See, every cloud has a silver lining!

Here in the UK, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 makes it an offence to plant or cause Giant Hogweed to grow in the wild. While over in the US, Hogweed is regulated as a federal noxious weed by the US government, and is therefore illegal to import into the United States or move interstate without a permit from the Department of Agriculture.    It was described by horticulturalists in Maine state as being “Queen Anne’s lace” on steroids!

The rock group Genesis sang about it on their 1971 album “Nursery Cryme” in a song called  “The Return of the Giant Hogweed” the history of the plant’s introduction to Britain is humorously recounted, and the dangers of plant are portrayed facetiously in lines such as: “Turn and run! Nothing can stop them, around every river and canal their power is growing”

hogweed 2

Giant Hogweed (or, as I think I prefer… the Cartwheel Flower)





About paisleypedlar

Artist, Sewist, sometime Cyclist and Arm Chair Activist
This entry was posted in Expeditions and adventures, gardens, national trust, Out and about, Quirky things and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to What a whopper!

  1. Katie says:

    My mum said kids used to use it as pea shooters as it has a hollow stem and they ended up with bilsters on their lips! Of course she might has told us that to make us stay away from the stuff!

  2. My word we’re being invaded!!!!

  3. informative postxx we used to play out whilst our mothers worked on the fields and were always told to keep away from the stuff they used to explain it to us in simple terms by telling us it would give us chickenpox spots all over. None of us would touch it , I think we new they were being seriousxxx you do have to be real careful with plants as I worked with a lady thats brother died from the deadlynightshade plant within two hours of ingesting it. I don’t know whether these days there are antidotes from these kind of plants. Interestingly on a different note I met with a friend yesterday and he had eaten a cherry from a tree in his garden a couple of yrs ago and a few minutes later he came across feeling strange and nearly passed out, he thought he was having a stroke. I’m not quite sure what kind of cherry it was or if any are poisonous or if it was just my friend was allergic?

  4. Wow, hope your friend is OK. I love cherries and would be sad if I became allergic to them. Mind you, I have an ornamental cherry tree in my garden which produces lovely fat shiny cherries that humans can’t eat, even the birds don’t bother with them.

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