Speaking in dry scientific language, hogweed is a plant of the Umbrella family, which has 52 species. The hogweed grows exclusively in the temperate zone of the Eastern Hemisphere. In the USA, there is only one species of this plant – Heracleum lanatum, it is also woolly hogweed. In Russia, as in a number of other CIS countries, there are much more types of hogweed. For example, in the Far East, the sweet hogweed Heracleum dulce grows, which can be eaten fresh in spring..
For food, would you ask? Yes, yes, not all hogweed are a problem and should be completely eradicated. For example, it was Siberian hogweed that gave the name to the first dish, which now we all know as borscht. This plant was used quite widely in Russia, as feed for livestock, some species were grown for decorative purposes because of the rather beautiful large white inflorescences. In addition, bees can bring up to 300 kilograms of honey from one hectare of hogweed, so beekeepers treat this plant well and try to place hives near flowering places..
Only some of the hogweed species that belong to the Pubescentia MANDEN section contain furanocoumarins. Remember this name, because it is these photosensitizing substances that are dangerous, they cause phytophotodermatitis in large mammals and humans.
For Russia, Belarus and Europe, the main problem was Sosnovsky’s hogweed. This is what they mean when they write about the overly widespread distribution of this plant, burns and health problems. In the USSR, more than 60 years ago, Sosnovsky’s cow parsnip was planted specially, which was brought from Kabardino-Balkaria. It was great for livestock feed.
The plant did not require care at all, while one hogweed gave five kilograms of silage. It would seem, well, well, cattle needs fodder. However, Sosnovsky’s hogweed got out of control and began to actively seize territory. Experts note that the area of its distribution began to increase by 10% annually, the cow parsnip captured thousands of hectares, for example, in the Vologda, Kirov and Nizhny Novgorod regions, and reached the Komi Republic. There are thickets of hogweed in the capital region.
According to experts, usually, if arable land has been abandoned, weeds appear on it, then meadow grasses grow, then undergrowth. However, if the abandoned arable land is captured by a cow parsnip, not a single plant can grow on it. Small seeds are easily carried by the wind, which contributes to the spread of hogweed in new territories.
Let us state that the man himself, with his own hands, created a problem with the cow parsnip, because at the very first stage of its spread in the middle lane, no measures were taken. People have upset the ecological balance by bringing in a plant that had not previously grown in these regions. Moreover, the ineffective agricultural policy at that time did not allow to control the cultivation of hogweed.
So, what is the danger of Sosnovsky’s hogweed, which has a large amount of furanocoumarins? These substances are contained not only in fruits, but also in leaves, stems, roots of hogweed, that is, all parts of the plant without exception are dangerous. If furanocoumarins get on the skin, they increase the sensitivity to ultraviolet light hundreds of times. That is, if usually the sun only leads to reddening of the skin and then, if you stay in the sun for a long time, then getting on the skin area with furanocoumarins, the sun’s rays cause first-third degree burns.
Just on a clear day, walking through the area that is overgrown with hogweed, you can get very seriously burned! Did you know that burns of 80% of the body can lead to death? It is dangerous that cow parsnip, unlike nettle, does not immediately cause pain. That is, the furanocoumarins hit the skin, a burn will soon occur, but the person still does not feel anything.
Blisters appear at the site of the ingress of hazardous substances, a person may have a high temperature. Hogweed, which also contains essential oils, is especially dangerous for allergy sufferers. An acute attack of allergies can lead to severe breathing problems and death. It is especially dangerous if hogweed juice gets into the eyes or mucous membranes. There is a risk of being completely blind. Blisters heal for a long time, scars and white spots on the skin may remain.
If the juice or pollen of the cow parsnip gets on the skin, you urgently need to wash it off with water, very carefully, using detergents. And immediately hide from the sun’s rays before a burn occurs..
How to deal with hogweed? Immediately, we note that on a national scale, only a state program will help to cope with this pest plant, on the adoption of which experts insist. The fight against hogweed will have to allocate substantial funds, and measures to prevent its spread should be taken regularly, systematically, over several years.
To cope with Sosnovsky’s cow parsnip at your summer cottage, you also have to make a lot of effort. We emphasize – do not flatter yourself if you have only one such plant in the far corner of the garden. If you leave everything as it is, the next year you will have to deal with thickets of hogweed, which will aggressively displace all other plants.
What you need to do to defeat the hogweed at their summer cottage:
- It is simply necessary to cut hogweed before the seeds are ripe. Otherwise, during pruning, the seeds will simply crumble, and you will help the plant to capture new territories..
- If the hogweed is still small, you still won’t get by with a hoe. The remaining root will almost immediately give new shoots, you will have to dig up the entire garden bed, the entire plot, picking harmful roots from the ground.
- It is safest to fight hogweed at night when there is no risk of sunburn due to the influence of furanocoumarins. It is clear that in the dark it is inconvenient to cut and dig up a plant. But even if there are clouds in the sky, the risk of burns remains. Therefore, a chemical protection suit during mowing of a hogweed and digging out roots will not interfere.
- It is advisable to cover the dug area with black dense plastic, so that the root that you could miss does not exactly give off shoots.
- You can also use special flammable liquids and burn the hogweed. It is best to do this before the seeds are fully ripe. But experts criticize this method as ineffective and dangerous for humans, because the seeds can still scatter over the site, and during burning, the plant releases harmful essential oils.
Glyphosad, domestic preparations “Tornado-500” and “Uragan” can be attributed to effective chemical means of fighting hogweed. Moreover, the site should be treated with herbicides both in spring and autumn, in order to surely kill the pest. And carry out prevention for the next year.
Important! In no case should you use hogweed for compost! And all the tools with which you fought the plant should be thoroughly washed, like a protective suit with gloves..