Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is a non-native invasive plant that has recently been in a topic of the local news.
Like many of our non-native invasive weeds, this plant was originally brought to the United States as an ornamental plant. It has large architectural leaves. The dried fruit is used as a spice in Iranian cooking. This plant grows rapidly and can quickly take over native habitat crowding out our native plants and reducing habitat for wildlife and creating erosion problems. Seeds can be carried by wind and water & birds can help with spread when they eat the seeds.
The problem with this plant is that if you get the plant sap on your skin and that skin is exposed to sunlight you can have a painful reaction called phytophotodermatitis. The skin reaction can cause large, painful blisters similar to a severe burn and can cause permanent scarring.
Giant Hogweed is in the carrot family (Apiaceae), so there are several plants that are look-a-likes and can be mistaken for it: Angelica (Angelica atropurpea), Cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum), and Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota). Though in the Caprifoliaceae family, the Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) can also be mistaken for Giant Hogweed. I came across two resources that report the Giant Hogweed as being found in North Carolina in Caldwell and Watagua counties.
So, BOLO (Be On the Look Out) for Giant Hogweed!
If you think you have seen this plant, report it to your local NC Extension Office or the NC Department of Agriculture.
NC Invasive Plant Council Fact Sheet Giant Hogweed:
USDA Poster Giant Hogweed:
NCSU Plant Factsheet Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis):
Photos from Virginia Tech news
A former co-worker of mine in Virginia, Corey Childs, Agriculture Extension Agent, visited the site in Clark County on June 18, 2018, where over 30 Giant Hogweed plants were recently found to collect samples for the Virginia Tech herbarium.
Debbie D. Dillion