As with many ailments, prevention is the best cure. However, if your local park is swamped with reports of Giant Hogweed, it is only sensible to know your enemy to avoid interaction in the first place.
Despite being an invader of our island, it is from the carrot family where all of the species, including native, have the same white, umbrella-like flower heads that can often lead to mistaking it with some of its safer cousins such as Cow Parsley and Common Hogweed. Fortunately, its features are enough to trigger alarm bells to steer one out of harm’s way.
Key features consist of the following:
- Tall plant (up to 5meters tall) with stems covered in thick white hairs and purple blotches, hinting at some form of toxicity though in May when they initially grow, it may be less than a metre.
- Giant, jagged leaves spanning up to 3 metres, giving it a universally uninviting appearance.
Although Common Hogweed and Cow Parsley have somewhat of a hairy stem, they lack the distinct purple blotches and jagged leaves. The former’s leaves have a rounder appearance as opposed to jagged and the latter are small, feathery and fern-like. Another pair of plants that are equally dangerous are Hemlock and Hemlock Water dropwort, where both have the feathery leaves of Cow Parsley but have thick, hairless stems. The former’s stem has the same purple blotch trait of Giant Hogweed.