Saturday, May 26, 2012

Giant Hogweed is a Hog of a Problem

Giant Hogweed is a plant that everyone should be aware of due to its very harmful qualities. It is extremely important to have Giant Hogweed removed from your yard, especially if you have kids and pets playing in the area as it can produce burns and scars when it touched the skin.

Giant Hogweed is a biennial or perennial herb growing from a forked or branched taproot. Plants sprout in early spring from the roots or from seeds.

Giant Hogweed is a member of the carrot or parsley family (Apiaceae) that was introduced into Europe and North America in the early 1900s. It is native to the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Its massive size and imposing appearance made it desirable for arboretums and gardens.  Giant Hogweed soon escaped from cultivation and became established in rich, moist soils along roadside ditches, stream banks, waste ground, along tree lines and open wooded areas.  The plant's name comes from Hercules, of ancient mythological fame, and Giant Hogweed is aptly described as robust in appearance.

Hogweed is Hazardous!

This tall majestic plant is a public health hazard because of its potential to cause severe skin irritation in susceptible people. Plant sap produces painful, burning blisters within 24 to 48 hours after contact. Plant juices also can produce painless red blotches that later develop into purplish or brownish scars that may persist for several years. For an adverse reaction to occur, the skin, contaminated with plant juices, must be moist (perspiration) and then exposed to sunlight. Some other plants are capable of causing this reaction, known as phytophotodermatitis (Phyto=plant, Photo=light), including several that are also in the Giant Hogweed family.

Giant Hogweed is a Federal Noxious Weed, making it unlawful to propagate, sell or transport this plant.

The USDA has been surveying for this weed since 1998.

How to Recognize Giant Hogweed

The best time to identify Giant Hogweed is when it's blooming.

Flowers: numerous small white flowers in June or July, clustered into a flat- topped umbel up to 21⁄2 ft. across.

Stems are hollow, ridged, 2-4 in. in diameter, 8-14 ft. tall, with purple blotches and coarse white hairs. The hairs are especially prominent that circle the stem at the base of the leaf stalks.

Leaves are lobed, deeply incised and up to 5 ft. across.

Fruit (containing the seed) is dry, flat- tened, oval, about 3/8 in. long and tan with brown lines.

Prevention and Control

If you are in the Chicagoland area and suspect Giant Hogweed is on your property, please call Trees "R" Us, Inc. and describe the plant so our staff can verify its identity. If the plant is Giant Hogweed, we will make arrangements to visit your property, assess the site and discuss our management strategies with you. The Trees "R" Us, Inc. staff has knowledge of which herbicide combinations are effective in controlling this noxious weed. Once a control program is initiated, our staff will visit your property periodically to determine the success of the efforts and to check for any new seedlings that may have sprouted. Since Hogweed seeds may remain dormant in the soil for at least 5 years, eradication requires a long term commitment, something the Trees "R" Us, Inc. staff is prepared to make.

Mowing, cutting and weed whacking are not recommended as a means of control because the plant's large perennial root system soon sends up new growth. Also, these tactics are risky because they increase the opportunities for homeowners to come in contact with the plant's sap.

Giant Hogweed is spread naturally by seeds, which can be wind-blown and scattered several feet from the parent plant or may be carried by water to invade new areas. However, people are usually respon- sible for spreading Giant Hogweed over long distances. Seeds or young plants from a friend's garden, planted in new locations, help spread this weed quickly over distances much greater than the plant would spread naturally. The dried fruit clusters are sometimes used in decorative arrangements, and when discarded outdoors, can start a new patch of Giant Hogweed.

Both Trees "R" Us, Inc. and USDA strongly encourage homeowners/landowners to call their local professional tree service that has a plant health care division as the first step towards managing a suspected Hogweed infestation.  Trees "R" Us, Inc. offers plant health care as well as a highly knowledgeable staff that includes 4 certified arborists.  When you choose Trees "R" Us, Inc. you can rest assured that you've made the right choice for your tree care, tree maintenance, and plant health care needs.  Trees "R" Us, Inc. services the North Shore and the Northwest suburbs of Chicago.  You can contact Trees "R" Us, Inc. via the web at or by phone at 847-913-9069.

Thanks for reading, 

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