Heracleum (plant)

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Cow Parsnip.jpg
Flower and leaf of Cow Parsnip
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Apiales
Family: Apiaceae
Genus: Heracleum

See text (about 60)

Heracleum is a genus of about 60 species (depending on taxonomic interpretation) of biennial and perennial herbs in the carrot family Apiaceae. They are found throughout the temperate northern hemisphere and in high mountains as far south as Ethiopia. Common names for the genus or its species include hogweed[1] and cow parsnip.[2][3]

Major species include:

  • Heracleum mantegazzianum, Giant Hogweed, is a native of the Caucasus Mountains, grows to 4-5m tall, and can cause severe phytophotodermatitis if the sap gets on human skin. The main mechanism for this dermatitis is extreme photosensitivity, causing severe sunburn on exposure to relatively small amounts of sunlight, with rash and blistering appearing within a few minutes: accordingly immediately covering sap-affected skin can prevent the dermatitis in many cases. It has become a serious invasive weed in many areas of Europe and North America, after being introduced as a garden plant.
  • Heracleum persicum, Persian Hogweed, is similar in size and properties to the Giant Hogweed, and was originally from Iran, Iraq and Turkey; it is known in northern Norway as the Tromsø palm.
  • Heracleum sphondylium, Common Hogweed, is common in Europe.
  • Heracleum lanatum (synonyms: Heracleum sphondylium subsp. montanum, Heracleum maximum), Cow Parsnip, is common in North America



Note that this is a full list of the 187 names described in the genus; the majority of these names are treated as synonyms of earlier-described species by most botanists.

Similar species[edit]

Many plants in the parsley family look similar to hogweeds, with white flowers in compound umbels, as do some in the daisy family (Asteraceae). Plants confused with Heracleum include the hemlocks (Conium) and water hemlocks (Cicuta) which are highly poisonous.

Water parsnip (Sium suave), which is not poisonous is also similar in appearance.[4]

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) in the daisy family also has many small white flowers in its inflorescence, but the leaves are pinnately separated into small narrow segments.


  1. ^ hogweed at Oxford Online Dictionaries
  2. ^ Bailey, L.H.; Bailey, E.Z.; the staff of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium (1976). Hortus third: A concise dictionary of plants cultivated in the United States and Canada. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-02-505470-7. 
  3. ^ "Heracleum L.". Tropicos.org. Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved 11 Oct 2011. 
  4. ^ Harriet V. Kuhnlein; Nancy J. Turner (1991). Traditional Plant Foods of Canadian Indigenous Peoples. Food and nutrition in history and anthropology. Gordon and Breach. ISBN 978-2-88124-465-0. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 

External links[edit]