A Guide To Identifying And Avoiding Hogweed Plants

  • By: Succulents Plants
  • Date: January 18, 2023
  • Time to read: 7 min.
Hogweed Plants
Photo by Difydave

Giant hogweed, Himalayan balsam, and common hogweed plants can all be found in gardens and along roadsides, but they all come with unique dangers. In this guide, we’ll help you identify and differentiate between the various types of hogweed plants and advise how to avoid and remove these invasive species. With the proper knowledge, you’ll be able to protect yourself and your garden from these dangerous, non-native plants.

What is Hogweed?

Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) is a tall and vigorous herbaceous perennial plant that belongs to the carrot family (Apiaceae). It is commonly found in grasslands, pastures, roadsides, woodlands, and marshy areas. This is one of the largest of the Apiaceae family, capable of growing up to 2.7 meters tall and producing clusters of white, rounded flowers.

Hogweed has an extensive root system, making it difficult to remove, as any remaining root fragments can regrow into a new plant. This plant can rapidly spread by producing thousands of wind or water seeds and cloning. It is an invasive species that can out-compete native vegetation and cause severe skin reactions when touched, so it is essential to identify and avoid it.

Hogweed can be identified by its broad, deeply lobed leaves that are dark green on the upper side and white/fuzzy on the underside. The stems are purplish-brown, heavily ridged, and hollow, with conspicuous white hairs. The flowers are white and small, arranged up to 25cm across the umbels. At the base of each flower is a distinctive, succulent bract, the most recognizable feature of hogweed.

Though hogweed is sometimes mistaken for native plants like cow parsnip (Heracleum maximum) and giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), it is essential to distinguish them. In particular, giant hogweed is highly toxic and can cause severe burns and even scarring.

Types of Hogweed Plants

Common Hogweed

Common Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) is one of the most commonly found hogweed species in the United States. It is easily recognizable due to its large size and white, umbrella-like flower heads. It is most commonly found in moist, open areas such as ditches or near streams. It has a hollow, reddish stem reaching up to six feet tall. The leaves are heart-shaped, and the flowers have white petals arranged in an umbrella-like shape. If you come across a plant that looks like Hogweed, it is essential to take caution: hogweed can cause severe skin irritation and even long-lasting blindness if it comes in contact with your eyes. Stay away from it, and wear protective clothing if you must handle it. As with any wild plant, identify it correctly before coming into contact with it.

Giant Hogweed

Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is one of the most dangerous plants to humans. It is a biennial to perennial herb in the carrot family and can grow up to 16 feet tall. It has a single, hollow stem that is usually purplish, covered in coarse white hairs. The leaves are deeply incised with angular lobes, and its flowers are large, white umbels with up to 120 flowerheads each. This species is native to central and southwestern Asia but has been introduced in various parts of the world, including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Giant hogweed can cause severe skin reactions in humans, especially in areas where the plant has been disturbed or broken. Its sap contains toxic chemicals called furanocoumarins, which cause rashes, blisters, and skin irritation when exposed to sunlight. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of this plant outdoors and wear protective clothing if you come into contact with it. Additionally, never attempt to transplant or remove this species – it should be handled only by trained professionals.

Himalayan Balsam

Himalayan Balsam is a common garden plant that can quickly spread out of control and take over your garden. It is an annual plant that grows to twenty feet and produces bright pink flowers with five petals each. It is a member of the mustard family and originally comes from the Himalayan region.

It is essential to identify Himalayan Balsam if you want to prevent it from taking over your garden space. When identifying the plant, look for a tall stalk with soft-green leaves arranged in pairs along the stem. As the plant matures, it will produce pink flowers that form seed pods.

If you spot Himalayan Balsam in your garden, it is essential to act quickly and remove it before it spreads. Pulling out the root by hand or with a shovel is the best way to get rid of it, but be sure to wear gloves and long sleeves to protect yourself from the sap that could irritate your skin. It would be best to take care of the plant safely since its seeds can spread quickly.

Identifying Hogweed Plants

Hogweed plants can be tricky to identify, but it’s important to know what they look like in case you encounter them. Hogweeds grow to be large, reaching heights of up to 8 feet in some cases. They typically have broad, green leaves and long, hollow stalks. The leaves are divided into three distinct sections and are often jagged-edged. The flowers of these plants are white and relatively small, generally clustered in umbrella-shaped clusters. Hogweed plants also have deep purple or white spots on their stems and branches, and their roots are carrot-shaped. To make sure you’re accurately identifying a hogweed plant, make sure it has all these features.

How to Differentiate Between Types of Hogweed

Hogweed plants come in various shapes and sizes, so you must identify which type you’re dealing with. The most common types of hogweed are Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), Common Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium), and Hogweed (Heracleum persicum). Each of these plants can be identified by distinct characteristics.

Giant Hogweed is perhaps the most dangerous type and is easily recognizable by its white flower clusters and giant leaves. Common Hogweed is much smaller and has dark green leaves and white flowers. Hogweed is most similar to Common Hogweed, but its leaves are much more pointed, and its flower clusters are much more scattered.

Avoiding Hogweed Plants

It’s essential to always be on the lookout for hogweed in your area and to avoid coming into contact with it. If you see hogweed in a wild or cultivated area, do not touch it or approach it, as it can quickly spread. Wear protective clothing, including long-sleeved shirts, pants, and gloves if you have to work near it. Furthermore, wash your clothes and equipment immediately after handling hogweed. Taking these precautions will help decrease the spread of this invasive plant.

Preventative Measures Against Hogweed Plant Growth

One of the best ways to prevent Hogweed plant growth is to be aware of its appearance. The plant typically has large, dark green leaves with white flowers arranged in an umbrella-like shape. It stands out among other plants and can reach heights of up to 14 feet. Additionally, it can spread quickly, so it is essential to eradicate any small plants before they have a chance to grow.

Another way to prevent Hogweed plants is to regularly inspect your garden or lawn for any potential signs of growth. If you spot any, quickly remove them. If you need help identifying a Hogweed plant, take a picture and consult a professional to help you identify it.

Finally, you can avoid Hogweed plant growth by avoiding planting it or inadvertently spreading its seeds. If you must work with the plant, wear protective clothing such as long sleeves, gloves, and safety glasses. Wash your hands, clothing, and equipment after coming in contact with Hogweed.

Removal of Established Hogweed Plants

When it comes to hogweed removal, the only way to get rid of the plant is through physical removal. This means you must dig up the entire root system and ensure no small parts are left behind. It is impossible to cut the plant down or attempt to get rid of it. Also, please wear protective gear when dealing with hogweed, as the sap that comes in contact with the skin can lead to irritation or even burns. If you are uncomfortable with the removal process, I recommend finding a professional who can handle it safely and effectively.


In conclusion, it is essential to be aware of the potential dangers that Hogweed plants pose to humans and the environment. Identifying Hogweed plants can be difficult, but with a basic understanding of the common characteristics of Hogweed plants and the ability to differentiate between the various types of Hogweed, you can be more prepared to identify and avoid these hazardous plants. Taking preventative measures against Hogweed plant growth, such as mowing or weed-whacking tall grasses and using herbicides where appropriate, can help to prevent Hogweed from establishing itself. Finally, suppose an infestation of Hogweed plants has already occurred. In that case, it is essential to take proper safety measures and enlist the help of a professional to ensure the safe removal of the Hogweed plants. With the knowledge gained from this article on identifying and avoiding Hogweed, it is now possible to confidently explore our beautiful nature and keep Hogweed away.


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