Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium)
Meadow hogweed, also known as common hogweed, is a plant species in the umbellifer family. In contrast to giant hogweed, it is native to Europe. Because the lobed stemmed and hairy leaves resemble animal feet, this plant species has been given the name bear hogweed.
Meadow hogweed is a persistent semi-rosette plant. It can grow up to 1,5 m high and is deeply rooted in the soil.
Its characteristic feature is the strongly widened leaf base, which surrounds and protects the delicate parts of the plant still growing. The flowers are arranged in umbrella-shaped umbels. The flowers are enlarged (radiant) and thus increase the attractiveness for pollinating insects.
The individual flowers secrete a lot of nectar on special organs, so they are always well visited by a wide variety of insects.
Hogweed likes to grow in fresh, nutrient-rich fatty meadows and increases strongly when over-fertilized, displacing other species and resulting in pure cultures.
Effect meadow hogweed
The young leaves are good cattle feed and can also be eaten as vegetables cooked by humans. Already the ancient Greeks used the plants as a worm remedy and against diarrhoea.
The plants contain light-sensitive furanocoumarins. Touching the plants can cause skin redness and inflammation (Wiesendermatitis) in sensitive people. However, the symptoms are much weaker than in contact with the non-native giant hogweed.
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