Giant Hogweed a Growing Threat Skip to content

Giant Hogweed a Growing Threat

Botanists fear that two invasive species of giant hogweed might have the potential to spread like wildfire unless preventative measures are taken.

Heracleum mantegazzianum, and Heracleum persicum are both native to the Caucasus Mountains, but were, in the late 19th century, imported to Europe, and later the United States, as ornamental plants.

They are now widely considered a noxious weed due to their toxicity. The sap of the giant hogweed is phototoxic and causes severe phytophotodermatitis in skin when exposed to sunlight.

In many countries, including Iceland, the intentional cultivation of giant hogweed is therefore prohibited.

“I think right now is the time to coordinate with environmental committees around the country, as well as with nature-enthusiasts, and to attempt to map the spread of the giant hogweed,” Starri Heiðmarsson, botanist with the Icelandic Institute of Natural History, told RÚV last week.

In Akureyri, a recent survey sponsored by the institute, found over 2000 giant hogweeds at 450 separate locations.

Institute representatives ideally want the plant to be completely eradicated, and plans have been made to start that process.

Giant hogweed is a great hazard to both children and those in poor health, says Starri.

Recently, a woman in Poland was fatally injured in an encounter with one such plant, albeit a variant not yet found in Iceland.

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