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 native to the western Caucasus region of Eurasia. Giant hogweed has become a serious invasive weed in many areas of Europe and North America.
  • Heracleum sosnowskyi, Sosnowsky's hogweed, has a native range that includes the central and eastern Caucasus regions of Eurasia and extends into the southern Caucasus region called Transcaucasia. Sosnowsky's hogweed is now a common weed throughout Europe and Asia.
  • Heracleum persicum (synonym: Heracleum laciniatum), Persian hogweed, originally from Iran, Iraq and Turkey. In northern Norway, the Persian hogweed is known as the Tromsø palm.
  • Heracleum sphondylium, common hogweed, is native to Europe and Asia.
  • Heracleum maximum (synonyms: Heracleum lanatum, Heracleum sphondylium subsp. montanum, Heracleum sphondylium var. lanatum), cow parsnip, is native and common in North America.

The various species of the Heracleum genus are similar in appearance with only minor differences.[4] An outlier is Heracleum mantegazzianum, the size of which is exceptional.

Other than size, the related species H. mantegazzianum, H. sosnowskyi, and H. persicum have very similar characteristics. The common name giant hogweed usually refers to H. mantegazzianum but in some locales that common name refers to all three species as a group.[5][4]

Unfortunately, the classification of Heracleum maximum has been inconsistent. Moreover, both H. maximum and H. sphondylium are commonly referred to as cow parsnip. To avoid confusion, these species are sometimes referred to as American cow parsnip and European cow parsnip, respectively.[6][7]

Most species of the Heracleum genus are known to cause phytophotodermatitis.[8] In particular, the public health risks of giant hogweed (H. mantegazzianum) are well known.[9][10][11] In all, 29 species of the Heracleum genus have been reported to contain furanocoumarin,[11] a chemical compound that sensitizes human skin to sunlight.[12]



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.


  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. ^ a b MacDonald, Francine; Anderson, Hayley (May 2012). "Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum): Best Management Practices in Ontario" (PDF). Ontario Invasive Plant Council, Peterborough, ON. Retrieved September 1, 2018. 
  5. ^ Nielsen, Charlotte; Ravn, Hans Peter; Nentwig, Wolfgang; Wade, Max (2005). "The Giant Hogweed Best Practice Manual: Guidelines for the management and control of an invasive weed in Europe". Forest & Landscape Denmark, Hoersholm. ISBN 87-7903-209-5. Retrieved September 1, 2018. 
  6. ^ "Heracleum sphondylium common names". EOL. Retrieved September 15, 2018. 
  7. ^ "German-English Dictionary: cow parsnip". dict.cc. Retrieved September 15, 2018. 
  8. ^ McGovern, Thomas W; Barkley, Theodore M. "Phytophotodermatitis". The Electronic Textbook of Dermatology--Botanical Dermatology. Retrieved August 11, 2018. 
  9. ^ Gander, Kashmira (June 18, 2018). "Giant Hogweed Warning: Plant That Can Cause Blindness, Burn Skin, Spreads Into New State". Newsweek. Retrieved August 11, 2018. 
  10. ^ Patocka, Jiri; Cupalova, Klara (2017). "Giant Hogweed And Photodermatitis". Mil. Med. Sci. Lett. (Voj. Zdrav. Listy). 86 (3): 135–138. doi:10.31482/mmsl.2017.021. ISSN 0372-7025. 
  11. ^ a b Camm, E; Buck, HW; Mitchell, JC (1976). "Phytophotodermatitis from Heracleum mantegazzianum". Contact Dermatitis. 2 (2): 68–72. 
  12. ^ Gleason (1988). "Heracleum induces photosensitivity in humans". International Journal of Ethnobotanical Research. 12 (4): 23–26. 

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