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Giant Cow-Parsnip - Heracleum mantegazzianum




Additional Notes "For further information about control of this species, visit the Great Vancouver Invasive Plant council web site. It is listed by them as one of the top twelve species of concern in the Vancouver Region. It is also listed by the Coastal Invasive Plant Council as one of the top fourteen species of concern on Vancouver Island and adjacent coastal areas."[E-flora]
Similar Species "Although giant hogweed is readily recognized by its very large size, smaller individuals may be mistaken for other species. In wet sites (ditches and shorelines), giant hogweed is most commonly mistaken for the native cow parsnip (Heracleum maximum). Cow parsnip ranges in height from 1-3 m and is generally a smaller plant than giant hogweed. However, the size range for the two species overlaps and small plants of giant hogweed may be mistaken for cow parsnip while taller plants of cow parsnip may be mistaken for giant hogweed. Fruit characteristics, leaf form, and number of rays in the flower umbels (15-30 rays in cow parsnip and 50-150 in giant hogweed) can readily separate these two species (see the identification key below), along with the purple blotching on the stem of giant hogweed. Additionally, cow parsnip is common and widespread throughout BC and is found at elevations up to 2750 m, while giant hogweed is not common, and is found primarily in the lowland zone in southwestern BC.
Giant hogweed is also sometimes mistaken for other species with white umbels of flowers such as poison hemlock (Conium maculatum). However, poison hemlock is generally much smaller and less robust than giant hogweed, with fern-like leaves and smaller umbels. Giant hogweed has also been mistaken for other wet-loving members of the family, so care should be taken in the identification."[E-flora]


"The observation of photocontact dermatitis from Heracleum mantegazzianum Sommier et Levier in 2 gardeners at work prompted the analysis of furocoumarin content of stem, leaves and fruits of the plant during a period of 1 year. Their concentration was found to be maximal in fruit, intermediate in leaf, and minimal in stem. Psoralen was the most prevalent substance in the leaf and bergapten in the fruit. In the stem, in contrast, individual furocoumarins were found in lower but variable concentrations. 3 furocoumarin seasonal peaks were observed in the leaf: the maximal peak occurred in June, the intermediate in August, the minimal in November. This trend corresponds to 3 biological phases of the weed." [Pira et al.,1989]

Other Uses

Further Notes on Toxicity

"Dermatitis bullosa pratensis is frequently caused by 8-MOP that mainly occurs in the Apiaceae family (Umbelliferae), which includes plants such as the giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) (159) and various vegetables or herbs such as celery, parsnip, and parsley (160)." [BMBBed]

"Handling of rue (Ruta graveolens; Rutaceae) or giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum; Umbelliferae/Apiaceae), which naturally contain significant amounts of psoralen, bergapten, and xanthotoxin, can cause similar unpleasant reactions, or more commonly rapid blistering by direct contact with the sap. The giant hogweed can be particularly dangerous. Individuals vary in their sensitivity towards furocoumarins; some are unaffected, whilst others tend to become sensitized by an initial exposure and then develop the allergic response on subsequent exposures." [MNP Dewick]


Many furocoumarins are extremely toxic to fish, and some are deposited in streams in Indonesia to catch fish.[Wiki-1]

"The seeds of this dangerous plant may take several years to germinate and survive in the soil for up to fifteen years. Once a seed has germinated it takes two to five years of growth before the plant produces flowers. During the first year, the plant produces a rosette of leaves to 1 m high. As the plant grows a large taproot, thick hollow stems and large deeply lobed leaves are formed. Giant hogweed flowers just once in its lifetime (unless the flower clusters are damaged before opening)." [Ediblewildfood]

"Once the plant produces seed it dies. Each plant can produce up to 120,000 seeds (typically 50,000), although some of these may not be able to germinate. Seeds that make their way into streams can float for three days before becoming water logged and sink. Giant hogweed seeds are spread by wind up to 10 metres away but can travel much longer distances via water in ditches and streams." [Ediblewildfood]


The information presented on this site is provided for educational purposes. Self diagnosis and treatment, without due diligence, could be harmful and is not encouraged. Some information & images may be copyright. Every effort has been made to present the information in the spirit with which it was originally presented. Some data has been omitted for legal and/or practical consideration. There is some data not covered in the scope of this project, including, but not limited to, cell culture and large-dose animal studies. I have made comparisons and links between related species which may later prove erroneous. I have not verified the information for accuracy and I accept no responsibility for its authenticity. Many of the plants presented are poisonous, have poisonous properties, or could cause illness through misuse, allergic reaction, drug interactions and environmental contaminants. Please use caution and mindfulness when harvesting plants for any use.

Page last modified on 30-09-2016