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Thursday, 18 February 2016

Seriously, Don't Touch Giant Hogweed!

Originally this post had a more abrupt title, then less so compromised with regular casing and one exclamation point. Just felt like it was important to get the message across.

Many people have had unpleasant experiences with poison ivy and I can attest to carelessly running through stinging nettle several times partly regretting the little renegade session, but Giant Hogweed is more than just a pain-in-the-neck to just wash away, and is in a league of it's own for "don't touch that plant."

It looks like a giant version of Cow Parsnip and Queen Anne's Lace. 
Here is a webpage with a comparison chart:
Giant Hogweed photo by Project Noah's rayrodriguez1027
Giant Hogweed can grow over 2 metres in height. In addition to its round clusters of white flowers, it has purple spots and tiny white hairlike filaments on the stem. Before it's bloom in mid-August it is also much lower to the ground and without its distinct flowers.

While its mini-me is evocative of the delicate crochet patterns that might adorn the collarbone of her Majesty, Giant Hogweed could bedeck your skin with third degree burns, or cause blindness if even a single drop gets in your eye.

The effects are not immediate, but this plant is phototoxic and the oils will burn your skin after being exposed to light, potentially permanent effects worsening over the course of days without treatment. If you do accidentally come into contact with its toxic oils on your skin, wash the area well with soap and warm water as soon as possible and avoid sunlight for two days, and see a physician.*

If you accidentally get any on your hands, do not rub your eyes!

*Even in the age of knowledge, Google searches, and Mayoclinic, the internet doesn't replace the care of a health care professional. With Giant Hogweed effects may not be immediate but can cause permanent damage without the help of a physician. Including to tough guys (and gals) who "don't go to the doctor".
phototoxicity: (aka photoirritation) A toxic response that occurs after the exposure of skin to certain chemicals and light. It can also occur after systemic (oral or intravenous) administration.

Queen Anne's Lace is a part of the carrot family so I'm guessing giant hogweed is as well. This means that if you're trying to rid your garden of this pain-in-the-neck relative you gotta be careful not only to not touch it,  but to take out the tap root from the ground also.

Giant Hogweed is an invasive species from Asia which (surprise-surprise) was introduced by people, first to England, then to Canada including Atlantic Canada, B.C., Ontario, and Quebec. It competes with native species for resources, and the loosening of soil even after it dies or hibernates during the winter can cause soil erosion.

If you see giant hogweed in your renegading through the forst, reporting the sighting would really help the local environment and fellow outdoorsmen: 
(To all who do this, thank you.)

Moral of the story: don't touch giant hogweed.

Ontario's Invadin Species Awareness Program. (n.d.). Giant Hogweed. Retrieved February 18, 2016, from

 Jakuboski, Samantha. (2011, July 17). CAUTION: Giant Hogweed might be growing in your own backyard. Retrieved February 18, 2016, from 

EURL-ECVAM. (2012). Phototoxicity. Retrieved February 18, 2016, from 

Santa Maria, Cheryl. (2015, July 22). Plant that can cause third-degree burns popping up in Canada. Retrieved February 18, 2016, from 

Santa Maria, Cheryl. (2015, June 2). Bloodroot and 7 other dangerous plants: How to identify each. Retrieved February 18, 2016, from 

Photo by Project Noah's rayrodriguez1027, from

*Apologies for the tiny font... can't seem to increase the size!

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