Giant Hogweed Facts
- Most notably, the astonishing plant known as the Giant Hogweed hides a truly dark secret. That’s because the completely unassuming looking plant actually ranks as one of the most dangerous plants on earth.
- This occurs due to the nature of the naturally occurring sap of the remarkable plant. This liquid, produced by the plant in rather copious quantities, has astonishingly powerful phototoxic properties.
- Therefore, once on the skin, it creates extreme blisters and scarring when exposed to light. Further, these are not short-lived. In some individuals, these can last for months, or even years.
- Finally, its danger is compounded by its strong resemblance to another, completely harmless plant. This is the Queen Ann’s Lace, a very popular ornamental plant in many countries.
Giant Hogweed Physical Description
Firstly, the deceptive Giant Hogweed typically grows to a height between 6.5 ft and 16.5 ft (2 – 5 m). However, under ideal conditions, the plant has the ability to reach greater heights. It can grow as tall as 18 ft (5.5 m).
Also, a fully grown plant produces numerous, large leaves. Further, these sometimes have a width of 5 ft (1.5 m). Also, these grow from a thick stem, colored bright green. It also has dark blotches and rough white hairs.
In addition, the large, umbrella-shaped head of this surprising plant can measure as much as 39 in (1 m) across. The usually relatively thick stems these grow from also contain the thick, dangerous sap.
The flowers produced develop small, but appear in rather copious numbers. These usually show either white or greenish-white in color. Furthermore, the fruits produce large dry seeds. These average 0.4 in (1 cm) in length.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Angiosperms
- Class: Eudicots
- Order: Apiales
- Family: Apiaceae
- Genus: Heracleum
- Species: H. mantegazzianum
Giant Hogweed Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
First of all, the highly prolific Giant Hogweed evolved as native to the Caucasus Mountains, in Russia. However, it quickly spread to a wide swathe of western and northern Europe. Later, it also spread to Canada and the United States, in North America.
Quite understandably considered an invasive species in many regions, it adapts to varied habitats. However, it primarily thrives in certain areas. Therefore, it’s concentrations appear greatest in coastal areas, along river banks, and in temperate forests.
In addition, the plant requires several years of growth before it produces seeds. But, once it does, each plant typically produces in excess of 20,000 seeds. Thus it assures its extreme ability to spread rapidly.
Further, the powerful effects of contact with its sap is what makes it dangerous. Within 15 minutes of contact with the skin and exposure to light, a rash appears.
But it can also become severe, leaving acid-like burns on the skin. Even a minimum contact with the eyes can cause permanent blindness. Finally, extensive exposure, even just to the skin, can prove fatal in some instances.