The Washington Times-Herald

Columns

May 13, 2014

Invasive plants becoming more of a problem in the midwest

My columns on the invasive animals and plants that have become problems all over the world have generated a lot of interest. It seems many of you find what it going on, good or bad, in the world of nature something you need to know about. I’m glad you feel this way as the more humans that are concerned about the globe we live on, the more likely is the chance we can do something to try to correct the problems we have caused.

A new plant that may soon appear in the Midwest is one that is already in America, and has been reported in both the northwestern and northeastern United States. This is a plant that has been given the nickname “the plant from hell.” This is the giant hogweed, a member of the carrot family, which also includes the look-alike cow parsnip.

The giant hogweed is a native of Asia and, with most of our invasive species, man is to blame for its spread into other sections of the world. In addition to the United States, it is also now found in Canada and several European countries where it is now well established and out of control.

Giant hogweed is large plant and can grow up to 15 feet in height with leaves that are basal and can reach a length of nearly eight feet. It has umbrella-like clusters of white flowers and can be mistaken for poison and water hemlock plants.

It reached western Europe in the 19th century when some amateur botanists, thinking it would make a nice addition to their gardens, imported the plant. As so often is the case, the plant did not stay where it was planted and spread into the surrounding countryside and found it really liked freedom and this new habitat.

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