Common Hogweed (Heracleum Sphondylium) Identification

Hogweed / spring / summer / autumn / edible

 

Common Hogweed doesn’t sound like an edible plant, but it is and it’s one of my favourites!


Botanical Name

Heracleum Sphondylium


Known Hazards

A mild case of photo-phyto-dermatitis can be caused by touching the raw juice of this plant and, leaving the exposed skin in the sun will cause the area to blister. Wear gloves if picking, if juice goes on you, keep that area of skin covered and out of direct sunlight


Could Be Confused With

Giant Hogweed, is a lot larger than hogweed, the leaves are a lot sharper and you can typically see the remnants of last year’s growth from the huge canes (6-10ft) that will be leftover.


Range and Distribution

These plants grow all over Europe, except Iceland, North Africa and all over America and Asia.


Habitat

Hogweed prefers nitrogen-rich soils and grows well up to an altitude of 2500m, it can be found on roadsides, banks, hedgerows, borders, disused, and wasteland.


Hogweed Video


Physical Characteristics of Common Hogweed

Hogweed is a herbaceous perennial or biennial plant that can grow from 50-120cms in height. The main stem rises from a large reddish rhizomatous root, it is striated or ribbed, hollow, and has bristly hairs all over.


Leaves

The leaves can reach a length of 55cms in length, they are very pinnate, hairy, and serrated, they are divided into 3-5 lobed sections, the edges are typically round, unlike giant hogweed which are always extremely pointed.


Flowers

Hogweed has white to pinkish flowers, displayed in large umbels (umbrella looking) up to 25cms, each containing 15-30 individual flowers, these individual flowers contain 5 petals.


Seeds

The seeds are winged and flattened contained in pods with rounded edges, up to 1cm long.


Edible Use:

Root: edible, grated, Lacto fermented, alcohol infusions
Stem: steamed, chopped in salads, battered, fried, on pizzas and omelets
Leaves: soups, dried as a seasoning
Fruit/seeds: as cardamom in cakes, cookies, shortbread, chutney, rice, curries, as a celery salt, infused with alcohol.


Herbal

It’s referenced that the seeds have been used medicinally in the past, being heated in oil and applied to the skin for shingles; also a decoction of the seeds was to be used for aiding a running ear.


Miscellaneous

When all of the smaller leaves have grown, you often get new shoots appearing halfway up previously growing shafts, they can be found either in or emerging from paper-looking sheaths, these can be used exactly the same as the really young shoots.


Tips and Observations

Personally, I never wear gloves when picking this plant, of course, I don’t purposefully rub the juice on myself but I’ve never had an issue with the juice, if you plan to collect a lot of hogweeds or a little, wearing gloves, maybe marigolds, would be a safe bet, but don’t worry yourself too much.


References

Here’s what plantlife say

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