Giant Hogweed Heracleum mantegazzianum
This huge plant (up to 6m) is breathtaking. Identification is certainly not a problem once fully grown, put simply, you know it when you see it. I have seen some huge examples in my time. It resembles what one can only imagine as being a prehistoric plant, looking more like a small tree. The flowers are sometimes a couple of feet or more wide! It has been responsible for many cases of poisoning in the past, as it resembles the edible common Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium in its early stages of life, until it outgrows its smaller brother by several meters that is. Many councils, wildlife Trusts and other conservation organisations will try to eradicate this giant ‘weed’ because of the threat it poses to humans. Personally I like to see it, and feel a much better way than removing it, is to educate people about it.
POISONING – Giant hogweed has a photosensitive juice which will cause burning to the skin and mouth if exposed to light. This can cause life-long changes to skin colour and may leave you with permanent sensitivity to sunlight. In fact, many members of this genus contain mutagenic, carcinogenic and phototoxic properties, so it’s well worth avoiding.