About animals

Poisonous Hogweed and Edible Hogweed


Sosnovsky hogweed is one of the most dangerous weeds. The toxic substances contained in it cause severe damage to the body. Rapidly spreading through cities and villages, malicious weeds pose a serious environmental threat, and therefore must be massively exterminated.

The expansion of the hogweed Sosnowski

In the history of its distribution, there are still not completely clarified circumstances. This plant was first discovered in Georgia in 1944. That it is named after D.I. Sosnovsky is nothing more than a tribute of respect to the famous Soviet botanist. The scientist has really studied the Caucasus flora all his life. But, paying a lot of attention to asters and grapes, he did not have a direct relationship to this species of hogweed. The plant was discovered not by Dmitry Ivanovich, but by another botanist - his colleague I.P. Mandenova.

However, there is a completely different version: supposedly this plant was bred artificially. For its basis, breeders took wild specimens that grew in the mountains of Armenia. Plants attracted their attention with their gigantic size and huge green mass. Scientists have created a fodder miracle culture from them. She was supposed to raise the livestock of the USSR to an unprecedented height. True, there is not a single source from which one could learn the names of breeders and the name of the research institute where they worked ...

There is a third version. In the difficult post-war years, Stalin learned that in the United States, cow parsnip was extremely successful in feeding livestock. Thanks to this, it grows like yeast. The head of the country gave instructions to grow a super-promising plant everywhere. The initiators of the introduction to the culture of the wild giant were the scientists of the Komi, Leningrad, Kola, Belorussian branches of the All-Russian Agricultural Academy. Subsequently, the cultivation of the feed plant was supported by Khrushchev, Brezhnev.

Over the course of several decades, many laudatory dissertations defended the virtues of a “generous” culture. However, one thing is strange: none of the scientists mentioned the poisonous properties of the hogweed Sosnowski. But after a few years, the negative consequences of its implementation were revealed.

Cows ate such a silo reluctantly. Milk, due to feeding, acquired a bitter aftertaste. Moreover, the reproductive system of cows was affected - they became barren. The birth of calf freaks has become more frequent. Upon contact with plants, animals received non-healing burns for a long time ...

Gradually, on the ground, they secretly began to abandon the cultivation of a poisonous plant. But only in 2015, the hogweed of Sosnovsky was officially deprived of the status of an agricultural crop and qualified as a dangerous weed No. 5506. However, over many decades the plant has spread throughout the country, becoming almost a national environmental disaster. According to some estimates, only in the European part of Russia it has invaded more than 1 million hectares of land! That is why the need for a total struggle with it is declared.

Botanical characteristics of the plant

In Russia, there are about 40 different species of this plant. Including safe, edible varieties: Siberian hogweed, shaggy. Their roots taste like cabbage. Therefore, many of our ancestors for centuries cooked the first dishes from "borschin", made preparations for the winter in the form of pickles, pickles.

Among the most dangerous is the hogweed of Sosnowski. Heracleum sosnowskyi (Heracleum of Sosnowski) - this is the Latin name of this plant. It was given to him by the ancient Roman scholar Pliny. Spreading bush with its gigantic size can really be associated with Hercules. It is also noteworthy that, according to mythological traditions, the ancient hero died from the poisonous juice of grass.

Plant Botanical Status:

  • clan - hogweed, family - Umbrella,
  • stem - ribbed, partially covered with villi, purple or gray-brown with dark red spots, 1-2 m high, sometimes reaching 4-5 m,
  • the root system is powerful, pivotal, the main roots penetrate to a depth of about 2 m,
  • leaves - yellowish-green, cirrus or ternate, 1.2-1.9 m long,
  • inflorescence - an umbrella up to 80 cm in diameter from 30-150 flowers, flowers are white, rarely pinkish, flowering time is July-August,
  • fruits - 10-12 mm long and 6-8 mm wide, ovoid, seed ripening period - July-September.

The plant usually develops for 3 years, until it blooms and gives seeds, and then dies. Nature generously endowed Hercules grass with the benefits that contribute to its rapid expansion. In spring, it appears before many other plants. Surprisingly, young growth does not die even with severe frosts around -10 ° C. It grows extremely quickly: by 8-12 cm - every day. At the same time, Sosnowski hogweed quickly displaces local plants.

Weed is strikingly undemanding to growing conditions. It has a rare survivability, it adapts even to pesticides! Self-pollinating, shows great fecundity. The plant produces many seeds of high germination, which are updated annually. They are lightweight and therefore quickly spread over long distances by the wind.

Sosnovsky hogweed grows 1-2 m high, sometimes reaching 4-5 m.

How to recognize the hogweed of Sosnowski

His aggression knows no bounds. Where single specimens first appear, entire thickets soon form. They inhibit the growth of any other vegetation. Favorite places for weed growth are ravines, virgin and abandoned lands, places of garbage dumps, ditches along roads.

Distinctive features of the hogweed Sosnowski:

  • giant growth
  • leaves with jagged edges; in harmless varieties, they are thin, sharp, elongated,
  • white inflorescences, in other species pinkish or greenish flowers.

Safe hairy hogweed differs from a poisonous specimen in much smaller sizes, bristly stalk, yellow flowers. The edible hogweed of the Siberian and medicinal plants angelica (angelica) has light green, not purple stems without spots, the flowers are almost the same light green color.

(yes, it’s not easy with hogweed)

While working on an article about wild poisonous plants, I did not include representatives of the hogweed genus, since the story of the history of human relations with this plant could not be reduced to the format "a small section in the review article."

To the family hogweed (Heracleum) umbrella families (Apiaceae) belong, according to various estimates, from 52 to 60 species of biennial and perennial herbaceous plants, common in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere, as well as in the mountainous regions of Eurasia. The southern boundary of the range of the genus is Ethiopia. In the territory of the former USSR, 40 species are known. Some species of cow parsnip are cultivated as ornamental plants, some as fodder plants, and the species is edible for humans. The Russian name of the plant (as well as its name in other Slovenian languages) is associated with the word "borsch", and it is no coincidence - edible hogweed has been traditionally used in cooking, saved not one thousand lives from starvation (especially during the war and in the post-war period) and was generally known as edible until the 1970s - 1980s, until the catastrophic consequences of the unsuccessful experience of introducing and culturing some representatives of the genus were revealed. Today the word “cow parsnip” is well-known to everyone, and in a rather negative sense - we say “cow parsnip”, and immediately in the head the keywords: poisonous plant, harmful weed, control measures, quarantine. Let's talk about what kinds of this plant and what related events have spoiled the reputation of the family as a whole.

The genus Hogweed unites closely related plants, but still this taxonomic group is heterogeneous. As part of the genus, the Pubescentia section (pubescent, fluffy) is distinguished, combining several species of cow parsnip, differing in gigantic size and an increased content of biologically active substances. It was the representatives of this section that spoiled the hogweed’s reputation, and two species of the giant hogweed were especially “tried” - hogweed of Sosnowski (Heracleum sosnowskyi) and Hogweed Mantegazz and (Heracleum mantegazzianum), which are the largest representatives of not only the genus, but the entire family of umbellate. They tried, of course, not independently, but with the active help of a person, and the geography of defeat in these species is somewhat different. From an unsuccessful attempt to cultivate Sosnowski hogweed, the territories of the former USSR were mainly affected, and Mantegazzi hogweed is notorious in Western and Northern Europe, where it was introduced and cultivated as an ornamental plant until it became natural and became an aggressive weed. These two species differ little from each other, and the consequences of their introduction are the same. Since the hogweed of Sosnowski is distributed in our country, let us dwell on it.

A little note about weeds

But before telling about the history of the introduction of hogweed, I would like to make an important "lyrical digression" about the so-called "weeds" and their important role in ecosystems. When we talk about "harmful" plants and "weeds", it is necessary to understand that in the developed ecosystems, among the local species of plants and animals, there are no harmful or beneficial ones, everyone has their own ecological niche, everyone in the ecosystem has its own function, the number of each species is regulated by established competitive relationships in this community of living beings. For example, the species that we call weeds and weed in beds and flower beds are pioneer species in ecosystems that provide the first stages of restoration of a forest or meadow after some catastrophic events (fire, deforestation, plowing, and so on). In those periods when the plant community exists stably, there is almost no place for “weeds” in its composition (since the so-called “pioneer” species have extremely low competitive ability), and they persist locally in the ecosystem, in places of minor damage (for example, open soil twisted by the roots of a giant tree, moleholes and other similar habitats), as well as in the form of a stock of seeds in the soil. Problems with the mass development of weeds and their crowding out of other plants begin if the “weed” species enters another region and / or another ecosystem, where it has no competitors and no mechanisms have been formed to restrain its abundance. There are a huge number of such examples on the planet, and for the most part they are associated with the activities of a person who, when resettling on the continents, specially or accidentally brought with him "weed" species.

About the hogweed of Sosnowski

The history of the introduction of the hogweed Sosnowski is a clear illustration of what troubles can be done by making important decisions in the absence of information, as well as in a hurry when there is no time for a comprehensive study of the issue. Popular rumor ascribes merit and says "thank you very much" for the consequences to Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, and it is justly deserved, since he ardently supported the introduction of Sosnowski hogweed into the culture in different regions, and it was during his years of leadership that the cultivation of hogweed reached enormous volumes. But this story began under Stalin, in the late 1940s.

The natural range of the hogweed of Sosnowski, like almost all other species of giant hogweed of this section, is limited to mountain forests and subalpine meadows in the mountains of the Caucasus, Transcaucasia and Turkey. The history of this species as a separate taxonomic unit is rather short - the hogweed of Sosnowski was described in 1944 from the historical and cultural region of Meskhetia by the researcher Ida Mandeeva, an employee of the herbarium of the Botanical Institute named after Komarova (Leningrad). The first introduction experiment took place three years after the discovery and description of the hogweed Sosnowski as a new species. The site "Pro Hogweed" (the authors of which have collected the most complete information about this plant and monitor its distribution) are named by botanists-researchers who initiated the introduction and cultivation of hogweed Sosnowski. But a sarcastic “thank you” to these people would be very inappropriate if you recall the conditions under which they worked and made decisions. The 1940s was the Great Patriotic War and the period of post-war famine and devastation, almost all of the country's resources were spent for victory. According to the speed of development of events, how quickly a new, literally just described, species of cow parsnip was "put into circulation", it can be concluded that the experts received a task from the party - urgently to find some suitable silage plant that will help quickly restore the livestock and solve part of the big problem of providing the country with food. P. Vavilov, a famous breeder, a leading world-famous specialist, spoke about the need to quickly restore agriculture and the positive role of the hogweed in solving this problem, and in some literature sources the initiative to introduce Sosnovsky’s hogweed into the culture was attributed to him.

It is quite understandable, and for which particular properties, the experts chose this species as a new promising silage plant. Sosnovsky’s hogweed is unpretentious, can grow under different lighting conditions, does not require fertile soil and a mild climate for its cultivation, grows well in the northern regions of the country (in areas of risky farming), and is practically not affected by pests. Moreover, it is rich in nutrients and vitamins, has gigantic dimensions for a herbaceous plant (its height reaches three to four meters), and demonstrates a high growth rate. All cow parsnip are characterized by rapid growth, but the representatives of the section to which Sosnowski hogweed belongs can be champions - their growth rate is twice as high as that of common hogweed and Siberian hogweed (species that have a long tradition of being used as edible plants). The yield of Sosnowski hogweed is more than 2500 centners per hectare, and the sugar content in the ground parts of the plant is up to 3% of fresh weight. Yes, specialists can be understood - here it is, an ideal solution, a potential silage plant that has no analogues in the flora of the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere. It is also quite understandable why scientists did not have enough time to study the long-term effect of biologically active compounds of hogweed on animals and humans. And so the story began of introducing hogweed Sosnowski into culture - first in experimental farms, and then everywhere. The first experience of introducing this plant took place in the Polar-Alpine Botanical Garden (Murmansk Region). During the 1950s and 1960s, hogweed was grown throughout the European part of Russia, in the Baltic states, in the territories of modern Ukraine and Belarus, in 1962 Sosnovsky hogweed was brought to Sakhalin, where it was also cultivated as a silage plant. The main centers of introduction of the hogweed Sosnowski in the 1950s-1980s were: the Polar-Alpine Botanical Garden (Apatity, Murmansk Region), the Institute of Biology of the Komi Branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences (Syktyvkar, Komi Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic), Botanical Institute named after V.L. Komarova (Leningrad, Otradnoe station), Regional Studies Botanical Garden of Kabardino-Balkaria, branch of the All-Russian Society for the Conservation of Nature (Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria), All-Russian Research Institute of Feed named after V.R. Williams (Lobnya, Moscow region), TSHA them.Timiryazev (Moscow, the Mikhailovsky School). It was these institutions and their experimental farms that supplied the regions with hogweed seeds and studied this plant under conditions of introduction. The results of introducing hogweed into the culture were widely reported in newspaper publications of those years, experimental stations and introducer scientists reported on successes, hogweed in publications called the “northern miracle”.

Problems with the hogweed of Sosnowski began quite quickly. In the very first years of introduction, there were cases of burns in people when the ground parts of the plant came in contact with bare skin. Later it turned out that the cause of burns is furanocoumarins (psoralen, bergapten and methoxalen), which are contained in the juice of the plant, and under the influence of ultraviolet rays (sunlight) turn into a chemically active form and cause extensive severe burns (up to death). Burns appear when the affected area of ​​the skin is subsequently exposed to sunlight. In itself, the contact of bare skin with Sosnowski hogweed is not so terrible (especially since it does not cause any particularly unpleasant sensations), as the subsequent stay of the victim in the open sun.

Recommended precautions in contact with Sosnowski hogweed - close the damaged area of ​​the skin from the sun, rinse as soon as possible under running water, avoid contact with the sun rays on the affected surface for two days.

If the juice of the hogweed of Sosnowski gets into the eyes, it leads to loss of vision due to severe burns of the cornea, and if swallowed, it leads to swelling of the larynx and esophagus. Nevertheless, Sosnowski hogweed was widely cultivated on the territory of the USSR as a silage plant, until it became clear that this mission had failed. Fumarocoumarins, when ingested, have estrogenic activity, causing infertility and impaired lactation in cows. Sosnovsky hogweed juice also has a pronounced mutagenic effect, causing gross chromosomal aberrations (“breakdowns”). Some sources indicate that the mass use of hogweed Sosnowski as a silage plant ceased after it became clear that it was he who caused chronic cattle diseases, the appearance of weak, non-viable offspring in cows, and the appearance of bitterness in their milk. Some sources mention the carcinogenic effect of hogweed furanocoumarins.

After the unsuccessful experience of using hogweed Sosnowski as a feed plant, it was no longer specially grown in the fields. But getting rid of him was not so easy. This is a perennial plant (life span of 3-4 years), tall, with a developed root system, with strong stems, dangerous to humans. In addition, the cow parsnip produces a huge amount of seeds, most of which fall out not far from the mother plant, but they are also easily spread over great distances, clinging to shoes, paws of animals, wheels of cars and bicycles. The gigantic size and rapid growth of the hogweed Sosnowski from his advantages turned into a problem, because in the flora of the regions where he naturalized, he has no competitors even among the most aggressive and fast-growing weeds. Hogweed Sosnowski successfully displaces local plant species, capturing not only fields, vacant lots and roadsides, but also meadows and forest edges. A surge in the uncontrolled spread of hogweed in the European part of Russia and in the Urals occurred in the 1990s, during a protracted crisis in the country, when large areas of agricultural land were abandoned (there’s an expanse of hogweed!). To date, Sosnovsky’s hogweed has spread in the European part of Russia, in the Urals, is moving east - quite a lot of its locations are registered in Western Siberia, including in the Novosibirsk region and Altai, and the easternmost point where it was found is located not far from Krasnoyarsk. The artificial population of hogweed Sosnowski in Sakhalin became a source of its distribution throughout the Far East, it is noted in the vicinity of Vladivostok, one location is known in Korea. In the southern direction, the hogweed of Sosnowski "reached" Uzbekistan. In addition to Russia, the mass development of the hogweed Sosnovsky was noted in the territories of Ukraine and Belarus, Poland, as well as in the Baltic states.

Currently, this plant is quarantined, universally listed in the so-called "black books", subject to destruction in all habitats. The fight against Sosnowski hogweed includes its mechanical destruction (before seed ripening) and the use of herbicides, but the effectiveness of these two agents is small, and the weed continues to capture new territories. Control over its distribution also includes fines for owners of land plots that have not destroyed a hogweed on their territory.

Edible Hogweed

And yet, despite the expansion of the hogweed Sosnowski, in our region there are not many places where he grows, and the likelihood of meeting him is still small. In the vicinity of Novosibirsk (as in other regions of Western Siberia), another species of hogweed is widespread - Siberian hogweed (Heracleum sibiricum), which also contains furanocoumarins (like all species of the genus), but their concentration in the juice of Siberian hogweed is much lower. Siberian hogweed is also considered a weed, but as a weed it is much less aggressive than giant hogweeds. Plants of this species are smaller, have a lower growth rate and (most importantly) this is a local species that has long and steadily existed in plant communities due to the existing natural mechanisms for regulating its number. Another factor limiting the distribution of Siberian hogweed is its high demands on humidification conditions; this plant prefers moist habitats; it occurs under the forest canopy, at the edges, and also in moist meadows.

Siberian hogweed is an edible plant. Despite the name, its range is not limited to Western Siberia, this species grows in the wild also in the Caucasus and in the European part of Russia, there are populations in Kazakhstan and in Crimea. For eating, parts of a young plant are used before flowering begins. In early summer, during the period of active growth of leaves and flower-bearing shoots, the content of furanocoumarins in its juice is low, and the hogweed is not dangerous, but rather quite tasty and healthy. Other edible representatives of this genus - common hogweed (European Hogweed, Heracleum sphondylium) and hairy hogweed (Heracleum villosum), used as a spice. The Russian name of the plant is cognate with the word borsch, but it is no longer possible to establish which of the names was the first - soup or plant, and what it was named after. There are indications in the literature that hogweed leaves in borsch were replaced with beets only at the end of the 18th century, and before that this soup was cooked only from grass. But one thing is certain for sure - soup from young leaves of hogweed did not occupy the last place in the summer menu of the peasant family, saved from hunger at that time of the year when the previous harvest was already eaten, and the new one had not yet grown. Hogweed, like chubby, was one of the most popular food plants in Russia before the cultivation of cabbage. In addition to cooking in soup, stalks of flower stalks of hogweed were pickled and fermented, fried, and also consumed raw (for salad or just like that) or in dried form (as sweets). Moonshine was also driven from the stems of the hogweed. The great advantage of hogweed over other edible plants is its unpretentiousness - the crop is guaranteed every year, in any case, regardless of the weather. Fresh leaves of Siberian hogweed are also used for livestock feed - animals eat them without any negative consequences, unlike fresh leaves of hogweed Sosnowski.

My personal experience in eating young peduncles of Siberian hogweed began in early childhood, at about four years old. My grandfather showed me this plant (called a "bunch") next to our summer house and taught me what to do with it before eating. The torn tubular stem of a young flower-bearing shoot must be cleaned of the outer pubescent layer and everything can be eaten. The taste is somewhat specific, about the same as in the dream, but not so pronounced, and in my opinion, very pleasant. You can have fun in this way until the beginning of flowering, at this point mechanical tissues develop in the stems and leaves of the hogweed, and parts of the plant become childish, fibrous, unfit for eating. In the literature, there are references that peasants of central Russia used hogweed for food all summer, cleaning the coarsened parts of mechanical tissue (which is not difficult in principle, since it is located in the stems and leaves of the plant quite compactly, in the form of strands). But I hope that our country will no longer undergo such socio-economic processes in which these tips could be relevant.

It is not difficult to distinguish the edible Siberian hogweed from the dangerous hogweed of Sosnowski. Siberian hogweed is much smaller, grows approximately in human height or slightly higher (but not up to three or more meters), its leaves and inflorescences are much smaller. The leaves of the Siberian hogweed differ from the leaves of the hogweed Sosnowski and their shape - they are deeper dissected, the edges of the blades are somewhat pointed (at the hogweed of Sosnowski the leaf is not very deep cut, the lobes are rounded).

Is it possible to get burned with Siberian hogweed in the same way as Sosnowski hogweed? You can, but you have to try. The probability of this event is quite high not always, but only under certain conditions - the plant becomes relatively dangerous during the flowering and ripening of the fruits (when the concentration of fumarocoumarins in its juice is maximum), and in addition, dry, hot weather should stand (at least a couple of days ) But I do not know (and could not find in the literature) a single case where burns with Siberian hogweed would lead to the same serious consequences that they usually lead to like burns from Sosnowski hogweed. Perhaps this is due to not such high concentrations of fumarocoumarins in its juice.

As a conclusion - be careful and enjoy your meal!

Ekaterina Romanova,

What is the danger of hogweed Sosnowski

Sosnovsky hogweed has been cultivated since the mid-twentieth century in the USSR as a silage. But then it became clear that the plant easily becomes wild. It penetrates into natural ecological systems and is capable of almost completely destroying them. The leaves of the hogweed of Sosnowski, as well as its fruits, contain essential oils, and they contain furanocoumarins. These substances are photosensitizing. And in case of contact with the skin can increase their susceptibility to ultraviolet radiation. This can provoke bullous dermatitis, which proceeds like a burn. Just because of clarification of these negative properties, attempts to cultivate this plant on an industrial scale were stopped.

The hidden danger of the hogweed Sosnowski

As mentioned earlier, the leaves and fruits of this plant contain furanocoumarins - photosensitizing compounds. The danger is that in direct contact with the cow parsnip there are no unpleasant sensations. But after getting into this place of sunlight, a burn quickly develops. If more than 80% of the body is affected, death is possible. There are situations when tents were lined with leaves of hogweed, used as toilet paper or as sun linings. All this provokes very sad consequences.

In contact with the cow parsnip, it is recommended to take the following actions:

  • quickly remove the affected area from the light, close it tightly with a cloth,
  • in a dark place with soap, rinse this place very carefully,
  • Do not expose to sunlight for 2-3 days,
  • when burns occur, immediately consult a doctor, you can’t do anything on your own, especially piercing bubbles.

For treatment, ointments of fucorcin, synthomycin, as well as bepantene and zinc paste are usually prescribed. If the area of ​​the phytochemical burn is less than a palm, you can lubricate the damage with lavender oil. If more - lavender oil can be mixed in half with any fatty oil and treat the burn site with this mixture.

Hogweed Sosnowski: the history of the appearance in Russia

Initially, hogweed Sosnowski began to be cultivated in the USSR in order to feed them cattle. It would seem that for these purposes he was ideally suited: the plant is large, the leaves are fleshy, insects are not afraid of him. Yes, and frosts, too, and gives a lot of seeds. But the properties of this species have not been fully investigated and sown in large quantities. And the cow parsnip did not fit the food: the milk of the cows after it was bitter, calves with various anomalies began to be born. That is, the plant became a provocateur of various kinds of chromosomal aberrations during gestation. Hogweed stopped growing almost immediately. But this did not help: the plant was wild and widespread.

Hogweed Sosnowski: distribution

Hogweed Sosnowski grows in vivo in the Central and Eastern Caucasus, Transcaucasia, Turkey. In these places it can be found in mountain forests, as well as in subalpine meadows.

Due to the cultivation of this plant as a silage culture, it has spread throughout Northern and Eastern Europe. And over time, he went into wild natural conditions, sowed the banks of ponds, roadside lanes, vacant lots, uncultivated fields, edges and glades in the forest, mountain slopes.

In the Russian Federation, the most unfavorable from the point of view of the distribution of hogweed is the central and northwestern territories. At the moment, activities are underway to map the growth of this plant. For this, a whole database of the distribution of invasive plant species, RIVR, was developed.

According to preliminary estimates, the area of ​​growth of the hogweed Sosnovsky in the European part of the Russian Federation is about a million hectares.

How to deal with hogweed

An effective method of dealing with this far from harmless plant is plowing and disking thickets with further planting of Jerusalem artichoke tubers. Planting Jerusalem artichoke directly in the thickets of Heracléum sosnówskyi is practiced. But the natural pest for him is hogweed moth.

Another way to combat hogweed in areas is to use herbicides containing glyphosate and some other active substances. Processing is carried out 2-3 times per season.

Also covering materials are used - geo-canvas or black film. With their help, the access of light to the plant is blocked. It is recommended to cover the cow parsnip for the entire growing season.

Note! Mowing thickets, pruning or rooting out stalks, using hay or a non-fabric as a covering material are useless methods and will not help in the fight against cow parsnip on the site.

Botanical Description

Biennial or perennial, monocarpic (that is, it blooms and bears fruit once in a lifetime, after which it dies). A very large plant. Its height is usually more than a meter, but in many places specimens up to 4 meters high can be found. The stalk is grooved-ribbed, rough, partially fleecy, purple or with purple spots, carries very large ternary or cirrus dissected leaves, usually yellowish-green in color, 1.4–1.9 m long. The root system is pivotal, the main mass of roots is layer up to 30 cm, individual roots reach a depth of 2 meters.

Inflorescence is a large (up to 50-80 cm in diameter) complex umbrella, consisting of 30-75 rays. The flowers are white or pink, the outer petals of the marginal flowers in each umbrella are greatly enlarged. Each inflorescence has from 30 to 150 flowers. Thus, there can be more than 80,000 flowers per plant.

It blooms from July to August, the fruits ripen from July to September.

Fruits are obovate or broadly elliptic, up to 10-12 mm long and up to 8 mm wide, planted long along the back, and spiky hairs at the base. The mass of 1000 seeds is 12-16 g. The shelf life of seeds is 2 years.



The natural places where Sosnovsky hogweed grows are in the Central and Eastern Caucasus, Transcaucasia and Turkey, where it grows in mountain forests and in subalpine meadows.

In connection with the cultivation of hogweed Sosnowski as a silage culture, it became widespread in Eastern and Northern Europe (known in Germany, Belarus, Scandinavia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Ukraine, but there is no exact data on its distribution), gradually moving and into the wild, sowing the banks of reservoirs, wastelands, road lanes, uncultivated sections of fields, forest glades and edges, mountain slopes, river valleys. In Russia, the northwestern and central regions are especially problematic in the distribution of hogweed. In the print media, reports of the wild distribution of cow parsnip began to appear in the late 1990s. Work is underway to map the distribution of the hogweed Sosnowski. For these purposes, an open RIVR database has been developed and regularly updated (spread of invasive plant species using the example of Sosnowski hogweed).

According to some estimates, the cow parsnip occupies more than a million hectares in the European part of Russia.

Biological features and ecology

About 1% of individuals in the cenopopulation can be polycarpics (plants that bloom many times and bear fruit throughout life). Some plants can partition (full partition corresponds to vegetative propagation).

Flowers are pollinated by insects. Usually the appearance of seeds is the result of cross-pollination, but self-fertilization is also possible. In the latter case, the seeds are also viable, more than half of them germinate and give normal seedlings. Thus, a single isolated plant can produce an entire population. On average, one plant produces about 20,000 seeds (almost half of them in the central inflorescence), but individual instances can produce more than 100,000 seeds.

Hogweed seeds can spread over long distances, but most of the seeds are close to the parent plants. The distribution of seeds occurs both naturally and with the help of humans.

Almost all seeds that appeared in late summer are dormant and do not germinate in the fall. Germination is preceded by a period of embryo growth and exit from a dormant state. A prerequisite for germination is exposure to low daily average temperatures of 2-4 ° C for one to two months during their stay in the wet state.

At the end of the dormant period, the seeds germinate easily (about 90% germinate under laboratory conditions at a temperature of 8-10 ° C). In the field, when the soil is warmed up to 1-2 ° C, the seeds germinate very densely - several thousand per m². Although most seedlings die in vivo, the surviving plants provide seeds for the new population the following year. Due to the rapid development of populations, giant cow parsnips displace other plants and maintain a dominant position in the occupied territories. On average, in a population of 10% of plants bloom and complete the life cycle, while others remain in a vegetative state until next year.

Hogweed blooms for 2-7 years of life, depending on the degree of development. Plants that did not bear fruit in the second and subsequent years form a rosette of 9-15 leaves by autumn. In non-fruiting specimens, mass accumulation in the middle of summer practically ceases and they remain in a vegetative state until late autumn, winter well, and grow back to the next year immediately after snow melts.

In spring, plants tolerate frosts up to −7 ... −9 ° C, and in autumn - up to −3 ... −5 ° C. 40–45 days after the start of spring regrowth, their height reaches 1.5–1.7 m. About a month later (late June – early July), the most developed plants bloom. The duration of flowering is 30-40 days. On the central umbrellas, the seeds ripen in 40–45 days, on the side umbrellas 7–10 days later.

After fruiting, the plant dies. If there are no conditions for flowering (due to insufficient nutrients, shading, drought, or regular mowing), it is delayed. In such cases, plants can live up to 12 years.

Especially high levels of toxic substances are distinguished by adult plants at the stage of flowering and ripening of seeds.

The poisonous effect of the hogweed Sosnowski

Juice, pollen, and weed fumes contain volatile furanocoumarins and essential oils. They cause severe allergic reactions, the manifestations of which usually become:

  • painful, difficult to heal skin burns with blisters, scars or scars remain in their place, age spots are formed,
  • pain in the eyes, inflammatory processes that threaten visual impairment and even blindness,
  • photosensitization - long-term increased sensitivity to daylight of the area of ​​the body in contact with the weed.

Under the influence of toxic substances, the skin becomes defenseless before solar ultraviolet. It quickly "burns out" - even in cloudy weather! If the juice penetrates the clothes during the day, photochemical burns may occur not immediately, but later, for example, at night. Moreover, for their appearance, enough electric light in the room. If 80% of the skin is affected, there is a risk of death. In addition, the juice of a poisonous plant, causing cell mutation, provokes the development of cancer.

Bit of biology

The whole family of cow parsnip has similar characteristics that make it possible to understand that in front of you is just the cow parsnip (but which one is a serious question and more on that later).

Distribution map of the hogweed Sosnowski (!) In Russia

Most hogweeds are biennials and only a few are perennials. All plants are quite large - from 20 to 250 cm in height, the stalks of hogweed are hollow and can be with a “fluff”.

The leaves of hogweed are somewhat reminiscent of maple: large, divided into several segments.

Flowers - collected at the base in the form of umbrellas, are white, yellow-green and even pink. Plants bloom from June and by mid-summer their first fruits have already ripened and have already begun to crumble to the ground in order to lay the plant's distribution in the future.

Poisonous varieties include:

  • Hogweed Mantegazzi, whose natural habitat is the Caucasus, however, the plant was cultivated in Europe as an ornamental and out of control. In Russia, while the Hogweed Mantegazzi comes across infrequently,

Hogweed Mantegazzi, photo source: plantarium.ru

  • Wild hogweed - also mainly a resident of a foreign country,
  • Hogweed of Sosnowski, the insidious child of domestic breeders (see below).

    Photo hogweed Sosnowski. Source: plantarium.ru

    There are a lot of wild, in some useful herbs of this species:

    • Hogweed Siberian, which initially had predominant distribution on Russian territory (and not Sosnovsky’s hogweed). It is not toxic, although it contains essential oils, but thanks to this it is nutritious and is used both for food and for medicinal purposes. Its clear difference from the hogweed of Sosnowski is a rough ribbed trunk and yellow-green flowers, and the leaves are more pinnate.

    Photo Siberian Hogweed, source: plantarium.ru Common hogweed, the plant belongs to the Eurasian and African herbs. A characteristic feature of the common hogweed is stiff hairs on the trunk and even leaves.

    Photo - common hogweed, source: plantarium.ru Such species as hogweed cut, hairy hogweed, hogweed hard, Zaili, colchic etc. - so far little described on the Internet.

    In the photo, hogweed from left to right: tight, Zaili, dissected. Source: plantarium.ru

    All of these cow parsnip also contain essential oils and juice, but in much smaller quantities. The differences of these plants are mainly visible when comparing leaves, stems and flowers. However, in order not to be mistaken, a careful, detailed study is necessary. The main problem in determining the species of hogweed is not only that there are too many species and they are poorly described, but that gradually the differences between the species are erased. Read more about this here.

    In different places the names of wild herbs are used, indirectly associated with hogweed. Sometimes these are just terms, for example, “kurai” - a generic name for a group of plants of the genus Umbrella. It includes grass hogweed, Ural reborn and angelica. Most often we mean herbs that can be confused with a poisonous weed.

    What is the strength of the hogweed:

    • Very fast growth (up to ten cm per day !!) and recovery during cutting, mowing and other mechanical influences.
    • A huge bank of seeds (the yield from one plant can number up to 100 thousand), which are easily transported both by wind and by humans, animals and other methods and retain the ability to germinate for up to 5 years or more. In addition, the seeds themselves easily “reach” to a state of maturity, even if they cut off cowhide umbrellas.
    • Hogweed is able to pollinate itself and for this it does not need another plant. Therefore, even a lone hogweed will prepare a seed bank for you and leave it in the ground. Next year there will be seriously more cow parsnip.
    • The buds from which the plant throws the stem and forms its aboveground part are not located on the surface of the earth, but are deepened underground and located on the root. The depth of the location of such buds can be up to ten cm. If you cut the stem above this point, it will certainly grow again. And very fast.
    • The rhizome of the plant calmly tolerates frosts and hibernates until the next year (in case the hogweed has not bloomed this year). And so it can last up to 12 years.

    However, the hogweed has some weaknesses that we can use:

    • Hogweeds are not capable of vegetative propagation (using roots), and if the stem is cut off including all the existing buds, then the weed will not be restored
    • Young shoots of hogweed are afraid of frosts, and if plants sprout before the last frosts, then they will most likely die. There is also an opinion that at temperatures from -12 Celsius inside (!) Of the soil - hogweed seeds can die.
    • Hogweed is a plant of the so-called "Monocarpic", which bear fruit only 1 time, after which it dies. If you let him throw away the umbrellas and then destroy the weed, the plant will die without producing offspring.
    • It is also known that hogweed does not like waterlogged soil and shaded places where it gives a stunted and weak plant.

    Hogweeds have a unique chemical composition:

    • sugar,
    • vegetable protein
    • fiber
    • essential oils,
    • amino acids
    • tannins,
    • minerals, including iron, nickel, copper, manganese, titanium, boron, carotene,
    • octyl alcohol,
    • plant juice contains furanocoumarins, which affect exposure to ultraviolet rays.

    1. Milestone Poisonous or Cicuta

    Perennial plant of the Umbrella family (genus of marsh and water grasses). Very poisonous plant, especially its rhizome. It smells like parsley or celery. It is useful to know what is more common on the banks of rivers and streams, in places of very wet soil, where Sosnowski hogweed usually does not grow.

    Be careful! However, the milestone is used in folk medicine. For example, in ointments it helps against gout, rheumatism, and other skin ailments.

    2. Hemlock

    Biennial grassy weed, inhabits everywhere. Deadly poisonous, dangerous not by burns, but by a paralyzing effect on the nervous system with a gradual stop of breathing. If you grind the fruits, there is an unpleasant mouse odor.

    Extreme vigilance is needed, especially in the case of children and the elderly!

    However, this plant can also benefit if used properly: folk healers treat them with whooping cough and even sarcoma.

    5. Angelica officinalis or angelica officinalis or angelica

    According to legend, the angel indicated the healing properties of the herb, hence the name of the species - Angelica, i.e. angelic. It is distributed in the Northern Hemisphere, in particular on the European territory of Russia, but is also found in New Zealand. Biennial plant, loves light, moisture. He feels comfortable along the banks of streams and rivers.

    It has long been used in food. Decoctions are used by traditional healers. Caution, do not confuse with hogweed!

    6. Angelica forest or angelica forest or angelica

    The grass of the Umbrella family grows in forest glades, edges, clearings, swamps, meadows. It is characterized by a high content of vitamin C and a wide range of minerals. For a long time, Dudnik forest has been used for food; there are many recipes from salads to syrups and candied fruits. Decoctions of the roots of the plant are mentioned in recipes of traditional medicine for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, bronchitis, etc.

    It’s easy to confuse it with hogweed, you need vigilance!

    7. A bear angel or a bear pipe

    It is found in the Far East - on Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands, Kamchatka. Used in folk medicine, mainly the roots of the plant. Effective tinctures and decoctions.

    These are the main plants, similar in appearance to cow parsnip, but differing in properties. However, let us return to the subject of our discussion - the hogweed of Sosnowski.

    So is hogweed harmful or useful?

    According to popular wisdom, hogweed is a "double-edged sword". On the one hand, the expansion of the hogweed Sosnowski poses a threat to humans and the ecosystem. Therefore, it is necessary to curb uncontrolled distribution and maintain an ecological balance.

    On the other hand, grass is useful in folk medicine, folk crafts. It is found in old recipes.

    How to distinguish a poisonous plant

    To clarify the differences between the cow-brewers of Sosnovsky and, for example, the Siberian, we compare their general appearance, trunks, inflorescences, leaves (the height of the plants is almost the same) from the photographs.

    On the left photo - Siberian hogweed, on the right photo - Sosnowski hogweed

    Differences are visible, but the signs are blurred over time due to the fact that cross pollination occurs between different species of cow parsnip growing nearby. This is a very important point, as the further you go, the less you can be sure that you are faced with a representative of a non-toxic variety of cow parsnip.

    Learning online to distinguish between a poisonous weed and a harmless plant is difficult. If plants 3 meters high with a thick fleecy trunk, large leaves remotely resembling maple trees and inflorescences in the form of umbrellas appeared in the surrounding space, you should not take risks, be careful.

    What does hogweed look like at different stages of growth and development:

    1. Young sprouting foliage of hogweed in the middle and end of spring

    2. Already developed growth of hogweed in early summer:

    3. Adult flowering Hogweed Sosnowski: starting in June

    4. How the leaves look close

    5. The stem is massive and hollow inside

    6. Appearance of inflorescences of hogweed Sosnowski

    To summarize

    Knowing what Sosnowski hogweed is, how it looks and what is dangerous, you can avoid contact with it. This plant is very dangerous for both humans and ecosystems. Therefore, an active struggle is being waged with him.

    In addition to hogweed, there are many other weeds, the danger of which we do not suspect. These include ragweed, which is the strongest allergen.It provokes attacks of sneezing, coughing, suffocation, lacrimation, headaches. Ambrosia juice can cause skin damage. Another dangerous weed is cyclagen. She is more aggressive and toxic than ragweed. May cause severe phytochemical burns. Hemlock, similar in appearance to parsley, contains many essential oils and causes severe headaches. Other common weeds are common wormwood, quinoa, etc. - provocateurs of allergic reactions.

    Emergency Weed Burns

    The dangerous effects of contact with it must be minimized. To do this, you need:

    1. Urgently transfer victim to shadow.
    2. Wash affected skin as soon as possible with soap and water.
    3. Then treat the sore spot with a preparation that produces an anti-burn effect: Panthenol spray, Olazol aerosol, Levomekol ointment, Bepanten plus cream or “Rescuer” balm.
    4. Isolate affected areas of the body from sunlight with clothing.
    5. If allergic reactions occur, take one of the antihistamines: Loratadine, Cetirizine, Suprastinex, Zodak, etc.

    If, after contact with Hercules grass, only symptoms such as itching or slight redness appear, you can treat the skin with water. But if extensive rashes or blisters have already occurred, contact of the affected area with it is unacceptable. Do not wash for several days. After providing first aid, you must immediately deliver the victim to the hospital.

    Dangerous Weed Control

    Hogweed Sosnowski is subject to mass eradication. In our country, fines have been established for those who allow the growth of this poisonous grass on their land.

    You can destroy single instances in the following ways:

    • periodic mowing
    • mulching the soil with shading materials (black plastic film or geo-sheet thickness of more than 100 microns),
    • herbicide treatment
    • by digging.

    However, mowing is a ineffective measure, because a new stem soon grows quickly. It makes sense to use it only in order to prevent the flowering of weeds and the ripening of seeds. A much more radical way is to dig it along with the root.

    It is much more difficult to deal with thickets of hogweed Sosnowski. Experts advise:

    • in villages and cities - to use shading materials, to sow weed growth areas with lawn grasses,
    • on agricultural plantations - to plow with disking and sow cereals,
    • Outside of settlements - use herbicides: Gorgon, Tornado-500, Adyu, Hacker, Magnum, Zernomaks Mix (combinations of these drugs give maximum effect).

    The most effective is the simultaneous application of several methods. The fight to destroy malicious weed should be carried out not on a one-time basis, but on a regular basis. And for 3-5 years, the results of systematic work should be periodically monitored.

    Economic value and application

    Hogweed Sosnowski was previously classified as a silage plant. In the late 1940s, breeder Pyotr Vavilov from the Institute of Biology of the Komi ASSR convinced the leadership of the All-Union Academy of Agricultural Sciences that hogweed would help restore agriculture after the war. Later, properties dangerous to humans were identified, and the plant was included in the list of weeds and dangerous plants - the Black Book of Flora of Central Russia, and since 2012 it has been excluded from selection achievements.

    Sosnovsky hogweed was first described in 1944. It is a hardy plant that grows well in cold climates. In the north-west of Russia, it was first introduced in 1947. As a feed plant, it was introduced in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and the former GDR (Nielsen et al, 2005 clarify ) In Russia, the first sample was collected in a herbarium in 1948 in the Serpukhov district (Moscow region). Until the 1970s, the hogweed of Sosnowski was rarely noted, but later the species became widespread (Ignatov et al., 1990 clarify ) In botanical gardens, the plant was cultivated as an ornamental (Byalt, 1999, Grigoryevskaya et al., 2004 clarify ) Until the 1970s, it was landed along the roads to prevent agricultural and wild animals from reaching them. Due to the fact that the juice, as well as the pollen of a flowering plant, is very toxic, special care should be taken when working with it. Livestock feed is processed, and young shoots are fresh. Nutrition 1 kg of green mass 0.15 feed units. The content (in%) of dry matter in the green mass is 15, the crude protein in the dry matter is 15-17.


    The transparent watery juice of hogweed contains photosensitive substances from the group of furanocoumarins. Under the influence of ultraviolet radiation, they transform into an active form that can cause serious skin damage (effects on cellular structures occur at the DNA level), requiring long-term treatment and not always passing without a trace. After contact with the plant, especially on sunny days, a severe burn may appear on the skin. A particular danger is that touching the plant for the first time does not cause any unpleasant sensations.

    If juice enters the skin, it should be isolated as soon as possible from the action of light (wrapped with any lightproof material in the first minutes after the lesion), and then thoroughly washed with soap and water in a dark place and exposure to sunlight for at least 2 days .

    Hogweed juice in contact with eyes can lead to blindness (as a result of a severe burn of the cornea of ​​the eye). Cases of loss of vision were noted by children who played with hollow stems of the plant as with spyglasses.

    Aerosol juice of hogweed and its pollen at high concentrations can cause edema of the upper respiratory tract (primarily the larynx), as well as the upper parts of the esophagus.


    Sosnovsky hogweed juice has some pathogenic properties in the absence of photoactivation. So, it was found that juice can cause gross violations of the structure of chromosomes - chromosomal aberrations, mainly through damage to the spindle of division (aneugenic effect). That is, the juice of hogweed Sosnowski causes a mutagenic effect. In addition, it has been reported that juice inhibits cell division (mitosis), that is, it exhibits mito-suppressive activity.

    There is a version that the picture of the defeat by the juice of the cow parsnip formed the basis of the ancient Greek myth of the death of the hero Heracles.

    Weed Control

    In order not to harm your health, you need to thoroughly prepare for the work on the destruction of Hercules grass. To do this:

    • wear thick fabric trousers, a long-sleeved jacket, boots or lighter but closed shoes, a hat, goggles, and waterproof gloves,
    • take along water, soap, anti-burn, as well as antihistamines,
    • apply sunscreen on hands and face,
    • during operation, prevent contact with plants in open areas of the body,
    • After finishing work, do not take equipment with your bare hands, wash clothes, and wash shoes and tools.

    To increase productivity, you can not use brush cutters, trimmers. When using such means of mechanization, poisonous juice will be sprayed around. It is also important to choose the right time to destroy the dangerous weed. This is best done on cloudy days or after sunset.