Common Hogweed

How to Identify Common Hogweed     (Heracleum Sphondylium)

Physical Characteristics

Hog weed 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.

The leaves can reach a length of 55cms in length, they are very pinnate, hairy and serrated, they are divided in to 3-5 lobed sections, the edges are typically round, unlike giant hogweed which are always extremely pointed. Hogweed has white to pinkish flowers, displaying in large umbels (umbrella looking) up to 25cms, each contain 15-30 individual flowers, these individual flowers contain 5 petals.


Young Hogweed Shoot
Young Hogweed Shoot
Mature Hogweed Leaf
Mature Hogweed Leaf

The Hogweed Leaves can vary from being large like this to being more sharp but if you are worried about confusing it with giant hogweed – just ignore any that aren’t more broad like the one above (you will get used to it after a little while and be identifying them easily!)

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

Green hogweed seeds - they will dry to a cream colour and will feel like paper
Green hogweed seeds – they will dry to a cream colour and will feel like paper

Hogweed prefers nitrogen rich soils and grows well up to an altitude of 2500m, it can be found on roadsides, banks, hedgerows, boarders, disused and waste land – it is prolific throughout the UK – literally growing on every piece of spare land.

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

Find recipes here.

Known Hazards
A mild case of photo-phyto-dermatitis can be caused by touching the raw juice of the mature 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 sun light

Could be Confused With
Giant Hogweed, Giant hogweed is a lot larger than hog weed, the leaves are a lot more sharp and you can typically see the remnants of last years growth from the huge canes (6-10ft) that will be left over. This plant causes the photo-phyto-dermatitis in much more dramatic effects.

Image result for giant hogweed

This image of giant hogweed gives you an idea of why it is called GIANT hogweed – I’ve still never come across the amount that is in this image – I generally see them growing on the side or in the central section of motorways.

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 hogweed or a little, wearing gloves, maybe marigolds, would be a safe bet, but don’t worry yourself too much.