Giant Hogweed Facts
- Perhaps most notably, the astonishing plant known as the Giant Hogweed hides a truly dark secret. That’s because the completely unassuming looking plant remain quite poisonous. In point of fact, the innocent looking species actually ranks as one of the most dangerous plants on earth.
- This apparently bizarre fact occurs because of the nature of the naturally occurring sap of the remarkable plant. This ever-present liquid evolved quite astonishingly powerful phototoxic properties. Not only that, but it’s produced by the plant in extremely copious quantities,
- Therefore, once on the skin, this powerful natural chemical creates extreme blisters. Furthermore, these can also create severe scarring when exposed to light. Unfortunately, these terrible effects are not short-lived. That’s because in some individuals, these can last for months, or even years.
- Finally, one more factor makes the Giant Hogweed potentially severely dangerous. That occurs due to the fact that its danger becomes 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 comparatively amazing height. This vertical growth typically measures between 6.5 ft and 16.5 ft (2 – 5 m), itself an impressive measurement. However, under ideal conditions, the plant has the ability to reach greater heights. That’s because it can grow as tall as 18 ft (5.5 m).
Secondly, a fully grown plant also produces numerous, comparatively large leaves. Further, these components of the plant sometimes have a width of as much as 5 ft (1.5 m). Also, these grow from a relatively strong, thick stem. This typically develops colored bright green. These leaves also have dark blotches and rough white hairs.
In addition, the large, umbrella-shaped head of this surprising plant boasts yet another astonishing dimension. This holds true due to the fact that the head, or crown, can measure as much as 39 in (1 m) across. In addition, the usually relatively thick stems these grow from also contain the thick, highly dangerous sap.
Furthermore, the flowers produced by the Giant Hogweed generally develop as small. Nonetheless, they also appear in rather copious numbers. These few but numerous blooms 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, located in Russia. However, the startling species quickly spread to a remarkably wide swathe of western and northern Europe. Later, it also spread to the countries of Canada and the United States, in North America.
Quite understandably considered an invasive species in many regions, it further displays a remarkable ability to adapt to varied habitats. However, it primarily thrives in certain, specific types of areas. Therefore, it’s concentrations appear greatest in coastal areas, along river banks, and in temperate forests.
In addition, the astonishing plant requires several years of growth before it produces seeds. But, once the Giant Hogweed does, it commonly creates them in vast numbers. In fact, each individual plant typically produces in excess of 20,000 seeds. Thus the species assures its extreme ability to spread rapidly, thus ensuring survival of the species.
Further, it’s not just the powerful effects of contact with its sap that serves as the source of what makes it dangerous. The danger is greatly augmented by the speed of its effects. This occurs because the symptoms typically appear within 15 minutes of contact with the skin and exposure to light. At that time, a rash appears.
But this persistent and rapidly-spreading rash can also become quite severe, leaving long-lasting, acid-like burns on the skin. Even worse, just a minimum contact with the eyes can cause permanent blindness. Finally, extensive exposure, even just to the skin, can prove fatal in some instances.