Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is a member of the Heracleum family along with other species such as Common Hogweed and Cow Parsnip. It originates from the Caucasus region and parts of Asia where it adapted its survival of the harsh climates by producing 10’s of thousands of seeds each season with the hope that at least some of the seeds will achieve germination.
The plant can grow to a height of 5m, produce white umbrella shaped flower heads, have serrated edged leaves growing up to 1 metre across and produces a poisonous sap harmful to humans and animals.
It was brought to the UK in the 19th century by the Victorian botanists. At the time is was valued for it’s size and stunning appearance when flowering and highly sort after by bee keepers. The warmer climate and nutrient rich soils of the UK are ideal for the plants growth and was seen to be quickly spreading across the UK and now described as an invasive species heading, which needs eradicating.
It is a problem because it spreads incredibly quickly through the deposition of massive numbers of seeds and it represents a danger to human health. The plant quickly comes to dominate an area choking out most native vegetation reducing bio-diversity. When it dies back in winter it leaves huge areas of dead leaves and stalks which become susceptible to erosion, particularly on river banks. It can adversely affect agriculture.
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