The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Conservation District combats giant hogweed


August 6, 2019

Richard Jenkins/Daily Globe

MONIE SHACKLEFORD cuts a giant hogweed flower to prevent it from going to seed Saturday during a tour to see the flowering invasive plant in Ironwood.


Ironwood - Among the invasive species the Gogebic Conservation District works to combat locally is giant hogweed. Locals had a chance to see the plant in bloom Saturday during a tour led by members of the conservation district and the Northwoods Cooperative Weed Management Area.

A group of about 12 people gathered at a location on U.S. 2 close to Curry Park and the Gogebic County Fairgrounds to see a blooming giant hogweed and some plants that are often mistaken for hogweed.

The plant can grow 6 to 12 feet in Michigan, according to information from Michigan State University-Extension, and has thick green stalks with reddish-purple blotches and white flower heads.

The plant's sap has chemicals that can cause burns and scarring when it gets on skin that is exposed to sunlight.

This makes it difficult to remove, which is why those leading the tour suggested people who think they have the plants on their property contact a professional rather than deal with it alone.

"Don't try to remove it, ... call us and we'll come out and identify it and make sure it's hogweed, or (a similar looking plant), and go from there," said Jim Finley, the conservation district administrator.

Giant hogweed is native to the Caucasus mountain region, is believed to have come to the area about 50 years ago as an ornamental planter.

It is believed there are at least 20 sites in the county that have giant hogweed, according to Monie Shackleford, with the Northwoods Cooperative Weed Management Area. She said the plant is designated as a "federal noxious weed," which means there is extra funding to combat it and it is illegal to propagate or sell it.

Along with seeing the giant hogweed plant, those on Saturday's tour got to see some of the other plants that are often mistaken for giant hogweed.

Wild parsnip is another invasive species that also has sap that can cause burns if on skin that is exposed to sunlight. It has a similar appearance to hogweed, but has yellow flowers and a smaller stem.

Cow parsnip looks like hogweed, but only grows to 5 or 6 feet and doesn't have as dark color on its stem. It is also a native plant rather than an invasive species like the other two plants.

At the end of the tour, the flowers of the giant hogweed were cut and put into a garbage bag to prevent the seeds from being spread.

To report possible hogweed or for more information on the invasive plants, contact the conservation district at 906-663-4512.

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