Hogweed is a common invasive plant found in the UK that can cause skin irritation and blisters when touched. The sap of the plant contains a chemical called furanocoumarin, which makes the skin sensitive to sunlight. First, if anyone tells you that getting rid of hogweed is easy – they have never managed to get rid of it themselves. Hogweed is a real pain and will regrow from just the smallest fragment of root left in the ground, but it can be beaten. In this article, we will discuss how to get rid of common hogweed in the UK, including the best methods for removal and ways to prevent its spread.
What Is Common Hogweed?
Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) is a perennial herb of the family Apiaceae. It is native to Central Asia but has been introduced to North America, Europe, and Australia as an ornamental plant. It can grow to a height of 2-3 m and has large, white flowers. The plant’s stem is hollow and covered in fine hairs. The leaves are large and lobed, and the flowers are clustered at the tips of the stems. Its flowers produce a large amount of nectar, which attracts bees and other pollinators. The plant is also a food source for deer, rabbits, and other animals.
Hogweed is considered an invasive species in many parts of the world due to its rapid growth and ability to outcompete native plants.
How to Get Rid of Common Hogweed
Have you found that common hogweed is taking over your garden? This invasive, non-native weed can be incredibly difficult to eradicate once it takes root.
Step 1: Identify the Plant
Before you can begin to remove the hogweed, you need to be able to identify it. The common hogweed is a large, perennial plant that can grow up to 3 meters tall. It has large, green leaves that are divided into several segments and white or pink flowers that grow in large umbels. The stem of the plant is green or purple and is covered in stiff hairs.
Step 2: Assess the Infestation
Once you have identified the hogweed, you need to assess the infestation. This includes determining how much of the area is affected, how long the infestation has been present, and the overall health of the plants. It is important to note that the more established the infestation, the more difficult it will be to remove.
Step 3: Choose the Right Method
The three main methods of controlling common hogweed are manual removal, chemical control, and biological control. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the best method for a particular situation will depend on the size and location of the infestation, as well as the resources available.
a) Manual Removal
This method involves physically removing the plants by digging them up or cutting them down. It is best for small infestations or for areas that are difficult to access. Manual removal can be done using a shovel, or other hand tools such as a hoe, rake, or a pair of pruning shears. The plant should be dug up as much of the root as possible to prevent regrowth.
- This method is relatively inexpensive and does not require the use of chemicals.
- It is effective in removing small infestations and preventing the spread of the plant.
- This method is labour-intensive and time-consuming, especially for large infestations.
- It is not effective for controlling large infestations or for areas that are easily accessible.
- It may not be effective in removing all of the plant’s roots, leading to regrowth.
b) Chemical Control
This method involves the use of herbicides to kill the plants. This method is best for larger infestations or for areas that are easily accessible.
The herbicides should be applied according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and it is important to use the correct herbicide for hogweed.
- This method is effective in controlling large infestations and preventing the spread of the plant.
- It is less labour-intensive and time-consuming than manual removal.
- This method requires the use of chemicals, which can be harmful to the environment.
- Improper use of chemicals can lead to damage to other plants or harm to animals and humans.
- Chemical control should only be carried out by professionals or trained personnel.
c) Biological Control
This method involves the use of animals or other organisms that feed on the hogweed. This method is a long-term solution and can take several years to achieve control.
The animals or organisms that are used for biological control have been carefully chosen and tested to ensure that they will only feed on the target plant and will not harm other plants or animals.
Note: Pigs, Goats, Sheep and Cattle will all eat hogweed.
- This method is a long-term solution and can effectively control large infestations over time.
- It is relatively inexpensive and does not require the use of chemicals.
- It is a safe and environmentally friendly method of control.
- This method can take several years to achieve control, so it is not a quick fix.
- It requires the release and establishment of animals or organisms, which can be difficult and time-consuming.
- It may not be effective in all areas or climates.
Step 4: Prepare for Removal
Before you begin removing the hogweed, you need to prepare for the task. This includes wearing protective clothing, such as long sleeves and pants, gloves, and goggles. It is also important to avoid touching the sap of the plant, as it can cause burns and blisters, particularly on sunnier days.
Step 5: Remove the Plants
Once you have prepared for the task, you can begin removing the plants.
- If you are using manual removal, you will need to dig up the roots of the plants using a shovel or other tool.
- If you are using chemical control, you will need to apply the herbicide according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- If you are using biological control, you will need to release the animals or other organisms onto the plants.
Step 6: Dispose of the Plants
Once you have removed the plants, you need to properly dispose of them. This includes placing the plants in a sealed plastic bag and disposing of them in a landfill.
It is important not to compost the plants, as this can lead to the spread of the hogweed.
Step 7: Monitor the Area
After the hogweed has been removed, it is important to monitor the area to ensure that it does not return. This includes regularly inspecting the area for any new growth and taking action if necessary.
Hogweed is a common invasive plant found in the UK that can cause severe skin burns and blisters when touched. The best way to get rid of hogweed is by identifying the plant, assessing the infestation, choosing the right removal method, preparing for the task, removing the plants, disposing of them properly, and monitoring the area to ensure it doesn’t return. With the right approach and a bit of effort, you can successfully remove hogweed from your property and prevent it from spreading to other areas.
Garden Doctor Tips
“Be mindful of the potential spread of hogweed through seed dispersal and take steps to prevent it, such as removing seed heads before they mature or mowing the plants before they set seed!”
“When dealing with hogweed always wear gloves, long trousers/sleeves and face masks due to its toxic sap which can cause skin irritation on contact!”
“Any removed material must be disposed of immediately – don’t leave it lying around as this could spread pieces elsewhere and allow the weed to re-establish itself quickly!”
Frequently Asked Questions
Can common hogweed burn you?
Yes, common hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) can cause skin reactions, especially when its sap is exposed to sunlight. However, its effects are generally milder compared to its relative, the giant hogweed. It’s essential to exercise caution and avoid direct contact with the sap, especially during sunlight.
How long does it take for hogweed to grow back after removal?
It depends on the method of removal used and the size of the infestation. If the roots of the plants are not completely removed, they may regrow within a few weeks. However, if the roots are properly removed and the area is regularly monitored, it may take several months or even years for the hogweed to regrow.
Can I use a weed killer on hogweed?
Yes, you can use a weed killer specifically labelled for hogweed, but it’s important to use it according to the manufacturer’s instructions and to be aware of the potential negative impacts on other plants and the environment.
How do I protect my skin from hogweed sap?
The best way to protect your skin from hogweed sap is to wear protective clothing, such as long sleeves and pants, gloves, and goggles when working near the plant. It is also important to avoid touching the sap of the plant and to wash any exposed skin with soap and water immediately.
Can I burn hogweed?
Yes, hogweed can be dried and burned but it is not recommended. It is better disposed of in the general waste bin.
How can I stop hogweed from spreading?
To stop hogweed from spreading, it is important to remove the plants as soon as they are identified and to dispose of them properly. It is also important to prevent seed dispersal by removing seed heads before they mature or mowing the plants before they set seed. Also, it is important to pull up any new shoots as they emerge.
Can I compost hogweed?
No, it is not recommended to compost hogweed as this can lead to the spread of the seeds and regrowth of the plant.
Is there a way to control hogweed without chemicals?
Yes, manual removal and biological control are ways to control hogweed without chemicals.
Can I dig up hogweed and move it to another area?
No, it’s not recommended to move hogweed to another area as it can spread the infestation and also, it’s illegal to move invasive species in the UK.
Can I use a lawnmower to remove hogweed?
Cutting the plant with a lawnmower can help to control the spread of hogweed by preventing it from producing seed heads, but it will not kill the roots of the plant and it will likely regrow. It is not recommended as the only method of control; it should be used in conjunction with other methods such as manual removal or chemical control.
Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.