"Mom! Dad! It's evil! Don't touch it!"
June 22, 2018 8:57 PM   Subscribe

Giant Hogweed Can Cause Burns And Blindness — And It’s Arrived In Northern Virginia

"Turn and run!"

Oddly, Back in 1971, , then very proggy Genesis wrote The Return Of The Giant Hogweed [lyric video] (performance) which has been cited as being prophetic about Britain's hogweed problem, which is the result of its unwitting use as an ornamental plant.
posted by hippybear (52 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have not yet read this article but just wanted to give props to the post title.
posted by ejs at 9:08 PM on June 22, 2018 [26 favorites]


Quick plug here for The Curse of the Giant Hogweed, a fun time-travel/mystery/fantasy.
posted by The otter lady at 9:27 PM on June 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


First of all, by definition sap is contained inside of the plant so just touching the plant won't cause any harm, you need to actually break one of the stalks to get the sap on you. Secondly there are many common plants that have poisonous sap most notably species of the genus euphorbia -- which includes the poinsettia, and euphorbia lactea which is a very common landscaping plant that is often mistaken for a cacti.
posted by pingu at 9:31 PM on June 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


I believe it's the bristles of the plant which expose people to the sap upon casual touch.
posted by hippybear at 9:36 PM on June 22, 2018


I belong to a FB group called the Capital Naturalist (and I highly recommend the namesake original blog!) The posts are generally a lot of "please tell me what this is" about plants and animals, birds, bones, etc. Since this came out about the Giant Hogweed, it's been almost a full on panic in all the DC-area naturalist groups, with a LOT of false alarms (cow parsnip, angelica, wild parsnip, and poison hemlock being the most commonly misidentified lookalikes). Alonso Abugattas, the blog owner [who is the Natural Resources Manager for Arlington County] has tried to calm down the paranoia, and created a good resource about this plant.

It's been fascinating to watch, honestly. So many people are so worried about something they are highly unlikely to ever see. It's amazing.
posted by gemmy at 9:36 PM on June 22, 2018 [12 favorites]


Shenandoah has no hogweed.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 10:02 PM on June 22, 2018


Okay, so we're dissing the Hogweed but not a word for the fucking Tree of Heaven?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:20 PM on June 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


I'm trying to understand why this bothers me so much. Because I feel this has happened before, e.g. https://www.independent.com/news/2016/sep/07/gardening-sticks-fire-not-so-dire/

I think it might be because so much emphasis here seems to be placed on the foreign origins of the plant -- Watch out, it's "arrived" in the USA! I do understand the necessity for biological quarantine to protect local ecosystems. But somehow these articles seem to strike a nerve that's already a bit raw given the current political climate re: immigration and the US.
posted by pingu at 10:24 PM on June 22, 2018 [2 favorites]


That's an... interesting take on this situation, but I suppose also poetic in a sort of populist kind of way. (You're obviously anti-populist. I'm not sure importation of invasive species as a landscaping feature is really akin to immigration, and it all started in Canada anyway.)
posted by hippybear at 10:29 PM on June 22, 2018 [5 favorites]


First of all, by definition sap is contained inside of the plant so just touching the plant won't cause any harm, you need to actually break one of the stalks to get the sap on you.

I don't think this is a useful thing to say?

I mean, USDA and NY DEC say quite clearly and distinctly not to touch it. Maybe they're being useless nanny-state ninnies; I dunno. But when the greatest prize you could ever possibly win is to know what giant hogweed feels like, seems better to just not touch the stuff and let professionals deal with it.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 10:43 PM on June 22, 2018 [22 favorites]


(cow parsnip, angelica, wild parsnip, and poison hemlock being the most commonly misidentified lookalikes).

Well, people should be scared of that, too, right? I mean, Socrates?

Also, holy cats is that Genesis video proggy. And speaking of wild growths, what about Phil's beard?
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:46 PM on June 22, 2018 [1 favorite]


According to this website,

Where is the toxic sap located?
Sap can be located in all parts of the plant but the following have higher concentrations: the lower part of the hollow stems and petioles; the hollow hairs on the plant; the foliage, stem, flower, or fruit (seed).


If it is even in the hollow hairs on the plant, I would say definitely don't touch it.
posted by eye of newt at 10:56 PM on June 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


There are a couple of plants in the world that are much, much worse:

The Manchineel tree in the Caribbean

The Gympie Gypmie tree in Australia.

Cyril also told of an officer shooting himself after using a stinging-tree leaf for “toilet purposes”.
posted by eye of newt at 11:03 PM on June 22, 2018 [6 favorites]


it's been almost a full on panic in all the DC-area naturalist groups, with a LOT of false alarms (cow parsnip, angelica, wild parsnip, and poison hemlock being the most commonly misidentified lookalikes)
Not sure about the others, but the sap of cow parsnip, which is very common in many places (including where I live in the Pacific Northwest) also contains furocoumarins and can cause burn-like blistering. (Though locally our greater threat to the unwary hiker is devil's club -- come into rough contact with that and you'll be sorry, but not because of furocoumarins.)
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:20 PM on June 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


A colleague had a mild run in with it once. The blisters were not pretty.
posted by Helga-woo at 11:40 PM on June 22, 2018


I've been starting to see warnings about giant hogweed in North Carolina, a couple hundred miles from northern Virginia. Either locals are being proactive or they're trying to exploit somebody else's panic for the whuffie.
posted by ardgedee at 2:27 AM on June 23, 2018


Giant Hogweed is no joke... remember having dire warnings about it as a kid ('If you get the sap in your eye you could go blind!') Saw some in real life once and treated it like a triffid... stayed yards from it! I think it doesn't actually blister the skin directly but just removes the skins ability to project itself from sunlight - so it's a lot more dangerous in the summer where also more bare skin increases the chance of contact.

I mistakenly once knelt on a rue bush whilst wearing shorts... the resultant blisters were no joke, I really wouldn't want to mess with hogweed.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:54 AM on June 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


That's an... interesting take on this situation, but I suppose also poetic in a sort of populist kind of way. (You're obviously anti-populist. I'm not sure importation of invasive species as a landscaping feature is really akin to immigration

But the discourse around invasive and introduced species is absolutely connected, I think. It can't help but be, even where it's not intended to be. Look at the lyrics of the Genesis song you linked:
Turn and run
Nothing can stop them
Around every river and canal their power is growing
Stamp them out
We must destroy them
They infiltrate each city with their thick dark warning odor
In a (fucked up) world where tribal and racial identification remains the most important feature of our political lives, with dehumanising anti-migrant rhetoric a matter of course, it's impossible for me to listen to that lyric and avoid the echoes of racism.

That doesn't mean that we can't have sensible discussions about management of introduced species, or strong restrictions on import, but maybe it would be a better approach to focus on the problematic nature of the species, rather than their "invasiveness". Plants and animals, just like humans, take part in large-scale migration, including through dispersal by other species. Where something comes from really isn't the problem, and change in ecosystems is normal and natural; the problem, from an ecological point of view, is those species which inhibit diversity. I'd find the rhetoric around these issues a lot more palatable if we focused on that.
posted by howfar at 3:15 AM on June 23, 2018 [10 favorites]


In my experience as an ecologist, our focus on invasive species is indeed on those that inhibit diversity. Things like the Asiastic clam Corbicula fluminea, which because of its life cycle differences from our native mussels has been able to outcompete them and virtually eliminate them, or kudzu or privet or Japanese honeysuckle or bamboo, which are able to outcompete and smother native plants, or pests and pathogens like chestnut blight, hemlock woolly adelgid, or emerald ash borer, which are able to eliminate entire species of native trees.

Despite its symbology in the local mystique, in the uplands of the Southeastern US, the evergreen magnolia is totally non-native--it is native to the coastal plain. But ecologists don't panic about the fact that, for instance, every other house on my street has one in its yard because they're really not that great at establishing locally and are in no danger of outcompeting local trees. The same is true for Japanese magnolia, Ginko biloba or a number of other Asian trees commonly planted as street trees throughout the US. Nobody is yelling at you not to plant them because they do not spread invasively.

In the case of giant hogweed, it is both invasive and dangerous to people and local fauna. I think it would be foolish to not warn the public about it.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:07 AM on June 23, 2018 [22 favorites]


Parsnips, another member of the Apiaceae family, also causes phytophotodermatitis (see Toxicity section) as does parsley. Ask me how I know.
posted by Botanizer at 4:38 AM on June 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


In the case of giant hogweed, it is both invasive and dangerous to people and local fauna. I think it would be foolish to not warn the public about it

Well, yes. I don't think anyone has suggested anything even remotely opposed to that position. A practical necessity can have social consequences and implications that are worthy of consideration without anyone denying that it is a necessity.
posted by howfar at 4:44 AM on June 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


Heracleum mantegazziani!
posted by parki at 4:50 AM on June 23, 2018


just wanted to give props to the post title

We would also have accepted “Is that a weed!? I’m calling the police!”
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:02 AM on June 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


Parsnips, another member of the Apiaceae family, also causes phytophotodermatitis

Death Carrots, as we call 'em.
posted by scruss at 5:31 AM on June 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


maybe it would be a better approach to focus on the problematic nature of the species, rather than their "invasiveness"

Poison ivy is bad for humans, but it would probably be a bad idea to even try to eradicate it from the US because it's a native species that other creatures in the ecological web have come to depend on over geologic time.

Eradicating giant hogweed from the US has at most minimal ecological consequences since we can reasonably expect that wherever it's growing wild or feral, eradicating it will probably just result in its being replaced by the native species it's displacing.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:36 AM on June 23, 2018 [7 favorites]


As others have mentioned, there are quite a few common plants that cause phytophotodermatitis. Lime juice on your skin can do it, too.

I'm not sure if the uproar about giant hogweed is because it's more dangerous than, say, wild parsnip, which is all over roadsides near where I live, or because it's less well established and still might be possible to eradicate.
posted by Redstart at 5:49 AM on June 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


I’ve had phytophotodermatitis from rue. My skin looked like it had been spattered with HCl. It hurt.

I’ve worn gloves and rain gear to deal with it ever since.

Aptly named, eh?
posted by sciencegeek at 5:49 AM on June 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


Poison ivy is bad for humans, but it would probably be a bad idea to even try to eradicate it from the US because it's a native species that other creatures in the ecological web have come to depend on over geologic time

Well, yes, that's why what I actually said was that a focus on ecological consequences was key.

It's interesting to observe the quick pushback against things that aren't being suggested, rather than the things that are.
posted by howfar at 5:49 AM on June 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


maybe it would be a better approach to focus on the problematic nature of the species, rather than their "invasiveness"

We're talking about a plant which causes skin burns and potential blindness upon minimal contact and whose seeds remain active in the soil for years after the death of the parent plant even immune to fire purging.

And it isn't native to the areas it is taking over, it was brought in as an ornamental plant and then got loose and is spreading through its own devices.

I find it truly peculiar that there is this "let's compare this plant to immigrants" thing going on, because I think anyone who is making that metaphorical leap has a different, much more negative opinion about immigrants than I do. I welcome human diversity in my neighborhood. I don't welcome plants that can give me scarring blisters that will last for years.
posted by hippybear at 5:54 AM on June 23, 2018 [21 favorites]


I find it truly peculiar that there is this "let's compare this plant to immigrants" thing going on, because I think anyone who is making that metaphorical leap has a different, much more negative opinion about immigrants than I do

With all the respect due to this position, I think that's highly unlikely. My response, for example, relates specifically to to the discourse which dehumanises migrants, rather than to any view of migrants that I either hold or espouse.

In all honesty, I find this response to be really quite intellectually dishonest. If your reaction to comments about the way we discuss these issues is to suggest that those whose views differ from your own have "negative opinions of migrants", I would suggest that you are acting in a manner which is both defensive and unproductive. I would ask you to consider why you think that's necessary.
posted by howfar at 6:06 AM on June 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


Again, the only perspective I can give is that of ecologists because that is how I approach the world, but I really don't think our focus in discussing non-native species is on foreign-ness or immigrant panic, and I think that most articles written for the public about invasive species tend to interview ecologists and present our perspective.

When I discuss the topic in class with freshmen, it comes after we have discussed evolution and co-evolution so that students already have grounding in the idea that native communities evolved together and are adapted to each other. That makes it easier to understand why introducing a species that did not evolve in that community can disrupt things and impact biodiversity.

I've never had a student try to extrapolate from that to human beings and immigrants (we are an area of high immigration from all over the world, particularly of refugees), but if they were to do so, I would remind them of what we already discussed when we discussed human evolution: that we are a single species, not a community of different species, and our interpopulation diversity is quite low compared to most other species on earth because we are a quite young species with high rates of gene flow among populations both historically and modernly.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:14 AM on June 23, 2018 [11 favorites]


Howfar: is there any living thing that you envisage could have the language you described used on them/it, or have all those phrases been terminally poisoned by their echo of racist anti-immigration slogans?
posted by lalochezia at 6:15 AM on June 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


I would ask you to consider why you feel comparing attitudes toward horrifically dangerous plants and attitudes toward human beings is necessary. It's an imaginative leap I've never made in 40 years of having this song in my life, and I find it curious that your brain "went there" so quickly when mine never did.
posted by hippybear at 6:16 AM on June 23, 2018 [4 favorites]


is there any living thing that you envisage could have the language you described used on them/it, or have all those phrases been terminally poisoned by their echo of racist anti-immigration slogans

I think it's genuinely complicated and, to sink to a phrase even I'm sick of using, "problematic". It's important that we have clear and direct language to discuss the real problems associated with and caused by invasive species. But it's also important to be wary, in light of the way that notions of invasiveness and native belonging are tied up with some very difficult concepts, that our rhetoric isn't hurtful or harmful more than absolutely necessary. I think that there's an issue to be noted and considered, rather than a taboo to be observed. I'm actually surprised that it's controversial. Noting the difficulties inherent in speaking carefully, clearly and constructively is entirely different from thinking that we can't or shouldn't speak.
posted by howfar at 6:21 AM on June 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


I can't find it right now, but I have read articles here and there describing studies that appeared to show that when people were primed with information about invasive plants and animals, they took more negative stances on human immigration (whether legal or illegal).[1] So I think the way the warnings about giant hogweed are framed do have consequences for other debates, even if the connection isn't obvious and we all recognize, intellectually, that the two things are different.

-

[1] This isn't the article I'm thinking of, but it talks about the same general idea:
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-scientists-are-starting-rethink-how-they-talk-about-alien-species-180967761/
posted by Spathe Cadet at 6:24 AM on June 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


"They infiltrate each city with their thick dark warning odor"

Hang on - the suggestion is that Peter Gabriel's lyric from 1971 is racist?
posted by parki at 6:25 AM on June 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


It's an imaginative leap I've never made in 40 years of having this song in my life, and I find it curious that your brain "went there" so quickly when mine never did

I really don't think that people should be insinuating racist or anti-migrant sentiment in this discussion unless there is some basis that's more solid than the Gamergate-esque "If you worry about racism that's because you're the real racist", which I would suggest really isn't terribly worthy of Metafilter.
posted by howfar at 6:27 AM on June 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


Hang on - the suggestion is that Peter Gabriel's lyric from 1971 is racist?

No. Please read the comment in full.

What an interesting set of reactions there are in this thread.
posted by howfar at 6:28 AM on June 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


What howfar is suggesting is far from a unique idea in sociology and anthropology circles.

American Perceptions of Immigrant and Invasive Species

this paper mentions the Nazi campaign on invasive species and its obvious ties to nationalism and racism.

The paper, rightly, says that campaigns against introduced flora and fauna are unlikely to be based on racism - and indeed I don't think howfar is arguing that either.

That being said, the society we live in does influence our language and thoughts. And many people over many years have remarked on the similarities between language around immigrants and language around introduced plants and animals, especially in places like Australia and the US.

I don't think it's implausible to note the somewhat overblown fears and things the media says that typically accompany these "invasions" (remember african killer bees?) mirror the way that (unwelcome) immigrants are often talked about and perceived.

Cause and effect here is hardly cut and dried. Nor does hyperbole mean there isn't a problem (those African killer bees are, after all more aggressive and likely to provoke an allergic reaction).

Nor does this make campaigns to eradicate pests immoral, or invalid. But a devoted community of crouton petters like this one can surely see how easy it is for people to animate plants and animals, and how as a society we easily project our anxieties?

Two last thoughts. I find stinging plants are generally overstated. I've had more than one run in with a gympie stinger. And whilst it wasn't pleasant it was hardly agonising (though I imagine wiping with one would be pretty hellish, it's a sensation much like a moderate burn that you can't put under running water.).

Two, indigenous people of the Caucasus use the hogweed stems , dried, to make a type of flute. Harvesting is done carefully, I understand.
posted by smoke at 6:31 AM on June 23, 2018 [13 favorites]


Hi! I'm a botanist who studies introduced species. I have what turned out to be many thoughts.

I definitely recommend you don't touch giant hogweed. While, yes, there is more sap inside the stem, you also come in contact with that sap by brushing against the plant, because you effectively break tiny hairs on the surface of that plant that release some of that sap. You almost certainly won't go blind by brushing up against it, but you will get a rash and sun sensitivity (photodermatitis). I do not recommend breaking a plant and rubbing it on your eyes.

A lot of plants in the family Apiaceae are toxic to varying degrees, inclusive of giant hogweed and poison hemlock, but also things like wild parsnip, Queen Anne's Lace, etc., which might also give you a rash if you're really sensitive and touch a bunch of it.

Plants in Apiaceae have a really distinctive leaf appearance, which is why all this stuff gets confused for giant hogweed. Hogweed is truly ginormous, and the leaves are huge (and therefore look somewhat less frilly than a lot of other Apiaceae leaves).

Ecologists have certainly recognized the idea that attitudes toward invasive species are a form of xenophobia. (On preview, smoke already linked this article.) There was a high-profile Nature piece from a bunch of well known ecologists (associated NYT article) arguing to drop the consideration of species origin, and to focus on controlling species we know are harmful to ecosystems without a focus on their origin.

The wide range of terms we use to describe these species doesn't really help (and tbh, makes literature searches a real pain) - alien species, non-native species, introduced species, invasive species. There's a lot of variation among ecologists in how each of these terms is defined, and whether or not they are synonymous. I will share with you a framework that I use (and I am far from alone in this approach): non-native is a plant with evolutionary origins far enough away that it is unlikely to have naturally spread to some new location without human intervention. Introduced is a non-native species found in said new location. (If it survives there and a population establishes, we might call it naturalized, which again, is possibly not ideal terminology as we also use that word to describe people.) This is all quite separate from whether or not something is invasive, a word reserved for when it's causing some kind of a problem (and the problem should not be "it's here and I don't like it"). There are some advocates for the term "native invader", studying definitely-native species that are nonetheless causing ecological issues. This is because we screwed up the environment somehow, and now they're problematically spreading into places they weren't found before. A related concept there is the question of drivers versus passengers of change - are invasive species having negative ecological consequences, or are they just the species best suited to these new environments humans have created by altering natural ecosystems?

A lot of people will use these words differently. That's fine, but it's helpful when folks are clear about it. It makes reading papers in this field kind of annoying, because I'll find a review paper about invasive species and the scope of their definition of 'invasive' might not be clear.

From my perspective, their origin is important for my research, because I approach them as a sort of natural experiment to try to understand what environmental characteristics and characteristics of the existing plant community influence whether an added species will successfully establish in that community. More fundamentally, this helps me understand something about the diversity of plant communities - what determines how many species can co-exist in one place? In what ways is their "room for one more", or is it full up?

I think it is perfectly reasonable to recognize the parallels in language between how we describe these species and how we describe humans, and to be clear about the potential social effects of that (again, as smoke describes nicely above). I generally refer to my own work as about introduced species. There are lots and lots of plant species that are technically introduced, but have been here for such a long time that we think of them as part of our natural ecosystem, because at this point they functionally are. I mean, honey bees are introduced to North America. And there's still a social issue in focusing the 'invasive' label on species having negative effects on the ecosystem, because it's hard to objectively define a negative effect - it fundamentally depends on what we, as a society, value.
posted by pemberkins at 7:59 AM on June 23, 2018 [53 favorites]


I asked about what I thought was a giant hogweed on here a few years ago. It was (embarrassingly) a really giant lettuce.

Decided after that that I would no longer go the moral panic route of plant ID. Want to highly rec the group "Plant Identification and Discussion" on fb for identifying this and other plants.

Plants can be scary--nature can be scary--but lately, I can't post a picture of bittersweet nightshade without a vocal FB contingent arguing with me that it's either belladonna or poison ivy (?!). My mother in law thinks everything is poison ivy, actually, like the whole world is out to give her a rash. Meanwhile, with the right protection, I go and pull out poison ivy in my yard on a regular basis. People want to salt the earth with round-up, but don't want to think about how that makes the soil and the world, longterm, a less habitable place.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:15 AM on June 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


I had this growing by the roadside at my house in Western Massachusetts, 10+ years ago. I mowed the roadside strip next to it, but left it alone as part of the jungle separating that strip from my yard, because I liked the looks of it. It came up every year but didn't spread.

Then I sold the house. Later I stopped by to see how the new owner was making out. He told me he had identified the plant as giant hogweed, and called somebody to remove it. Apparently they came in hazmat suits to cart it away, roots and all. I didn't mention it had been there for years.
posted by beagle at 10:10 AM on June 23, 2018 [6 favorites]


Living in Berryville, as mentioned in the article, with a field I'm trying to re-wild after a couple of centuries of being very poor pasturage, this is of immediate and personal concern. Sigh. At least I have a bee suit for isolation, and it looks like using a pruning saw will work to cut it down at a distance, then a call to the local coop to report it, then more government invasion as they will no doubt want to either study it, fine me, or otherwise interfere with my life. Considering all the rain this year, everything from the local berries (hey, it's Berryville, after all, and I have acres of wild blackberries, wineberries, and black raspberries) to poison ivy and autumn olive is growing like mad. At least its not kudzu (knock on wood).
posted by Blackanvil at 10:37 AM on June 23, 2018


Shenandoah has no hogweed.

DUN-DUN-DUN

HE WAS A GOOD FRIEND OF MINE

DUN-DUN-DUN
posted by delfin at 11:32 AM on June 23, 2018 [10 favorites]


Let me put this in perspective: when I was in hiking class, they always stressed clean water protocols. Fresh water is trying to kill you and fresh water parasites are no joke. (I mean goddam people, worms?) Don't even touch water from an unfiltered source.
posted by SPrintF at 11:35 AM on June 23, 2018


I want to touch it. What happens if I touch it? ... Whoops, I already touched it. What should I do?

I remember asking these questions, rather a long time ago, now. Fortunately the answers/outcomes weren't anywhere near as dangerous as these plants.

:)
posted by droplet at 1:51 PM on June 23, 2018


Here in Maryland we have poison hemlock spreading all over. While it's poisonous to humans, the real concern is for livestock. I see miles of it along roads along pastureland.

I study invasive species; the whole topic is complicated. Many "invasive species problems" are actually problems of ecosystems disturbed by human activity, like overgrazed pastures and forests intersected by roads.
posted by acrasis at 2:17 PM on June 23, 2018 [5 favorites]


I dont know if anyone else mentioned this because when I saw the title of the post I just squealed and scrolled straight to the bottom to post and say that is my favorite movie/movie quote of all time! Well done!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 4:06 PM on June 23, 2018 [2 favorites]


Giant Hogweed is the MS-13 of the plant kingdom.
posted by Fupped Duck at 6:32 PM on June 23, 2018


People used to plant it as an ornamental in Massachusetts and it's still here.
posted by adamg at 7:39 PM on June 23, 2018


I have rather a soft spot for Giant Hogweed. It was planted as an ornamental in England, too, and until quite recently (about ten years or so ago) you could still buy the seeds although now it is classed as a noxious weed. It is pretty spectacular and HUGE, and like the relatively harmless (spiky but not venomous) Gunnera manicata" it gives you a rather pleasing sensation of being a tiny person in the undergrowth.

It is very nasty if you do come into contact with the sap though, although levels of susceptibility seem to vary. Kids using the hollow stems as pea-shooters have developed really horrible reactions to it. I once spent some time clearing the small first-year plants from a railway embankment by hand, using something like a hoe, and used gloves and long sleeves but no eye protection, and had no ill-effects. It's a biennial, and perhaps the much larger second-year plants are more venomous.
posted by Fuchsoid at 9:19 AM on June 24, 2018


I glanced at Wikipedia to confirm that the Hogweed family; poison ivy/oak/sumac; hemlock plant; and stinging nettle all have different kinds of chemical antagonists, please correct if I'm wrong about this.

When I first heard the Genesis song I'd thought that it was a fanciful fable from Gabriel's mythic imagination. I was kinda whut? when I learned that Hogweed was actually a thing, a noxious thing.
posted by ovvl at 4:44 PM on June 25, 2018


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