Giant Hogweed Spreads across Iceland Skip to content

Giant Hogweed Spreads across Iceland

Due to warming temperatures, giant hogweed (Lat. Heracleum mantegazzianum), which used to be planted only in gardens, is spreading across Iceland on its own accord. The plant not only threatens wild Icelandic plants, it is also dangerous for humans.

“We have to fight the giant hogweed before it spreads further,” Ásthildur Cesil Thórdardóttir, gardening director in Ísafjördur in the West Fjords, told Fréttabladid.

Last week a small boy suffered burns all over his body after playing in a batch of giant hogweed and being exposed to the plant’s juice.

Physician Magnús Jóhannsson explained that the giant hogweed’s juice becomes poisonous when it is carried onto skin in sunlight. Even very little sunlight can cause second-degree burns, scratches and wounds which may scar.

The plant does not belong in public parks, Jóhannsson said. He contacted Reykjavík City some time ago to warn against the giant hogweed which grows in Hljómskálagardurinn public park, but his word of warning was ignored.

Giant hogweed also grows in Lystigardurinn, the botanic garden in Akureyri, north Iceland. The plant is robust and quickly spreads to other areas. It is considered a pest in northern Europe and many countries have taken actions to limit its growth.

Chervil is another plant which used to be planted in Icelandic gardens for decoration but is now considered weed. It is quickly spreading to wild areas, threatening the natural Icelandic flora.

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