Help Identifying this mighty 11ft blighter please

Hello All

A regular client of mine planted what they think is a Gunnera plant which they obtained from a friend a couple of years ago.

Trouble is, it's like no Gunnera that I have ever seen , apart from the similarly sized 2-3ft wide leaves.

The trouble is, that one plant is now multiplying at an astonishing rate and rampaging through the borders with 10 -12ft tall stems, on top of which are basketball sized flower heads, not dissimilar to hemlock in appearance. The stems themselves are around 2" in diameter and the stems have a slight red mottling on them.

Unlike the Gunneras I have worked with before, with huge cucumber like flower heads, this plant has wide ball like heads, leading me to think it's either not a Gunnera or it's a different species to the usual plant.

Also worthy of note, these tall stems have rocketed to that height in around 3 - 4 weeks.

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  • I might be wrong, as I don't have any near me and so haven't seen it in the flesh. It looks a bit like Hogweed to me looking at the flowers. If it is you REALLY don't want to get the sap on you.

    • Hi Chris, I think you've just hit the nail on the head. 

      I searched Hogweed and found that it does indeed appear to be Giant Hogweed which as you say has Chemicals in the sap that can cause photodermatitis or photosensitivity, where the skin becomes very sensitive to sunlight and may suffer blistering, pigmentation and long-lasting scars.

      It's a pretty nasty plant by all accounts.

      I got some sap on my arms yesterday whilst strimming nearby but so fat (Touch Wood) I seem ok. Being out in the sunlight today may prove otherwise.

      For the benefit of others and Thanks to help from Chris, I found this extract:


      Although there is no statutory obligation for landowners to eliminate giant hogweed, local authorities will often take action to remove infestations in public areas. Plants that are undesirable, out-compete desired plants, or simply invade half the garden are classed as weeds and require control. Weeds from abroad with strongly invasive tendencies are termed ‘invasive aliens’ and pose a severe threat to wild or other uncultivated environments, such as railway embankments.

      Because of the severity of the threat, legislation has been applied to invasive aliens, including giant hogweed. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) lists it on Schedule 9, Section 14 meaning it is an offence to cause giant hogweed to grow in the wild in England and Wales (similar legislation applies in Scotland and Northern Ireland). Also it can be the subject of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders where occupiers of giant hogweed infested ground can be required to remove the weed or face penalties.

      Local Authorities have powers under certain circumstances to require giant hogweed to be removed.

      First, consider whether this can be done using non-chemical means such as digging out or suppressing with mulch. Where these methods are not feasible, chemical controls may need to be used.

      When controlling giant hogweed always wear gloves, cover your arms and legs, and ideally wear a face mask when working on or near it. Cut plant debris, contaminated clothing and tools are potentially hazardous too. Wash any skin that comes in contact with the plant immediately. Ensure that contractors working on your land are aware of the risks and competent to deal with this weed.


      Giant hogweed/RHS Gardening
      Giant hogweed (<EM>Heracleum mantegazzianum</EM>) is a close relative of cow parsley originally from Southern Russia and Georgia. It can reach over 3…
  • PRO

    I would concur with Chris

  • PRO

    Gunnera Manicata from Burncoose Nurseries
    Gunnera Manicata from Burncoose Nurseries available online to buy - Information: the more boggy the conditions the larger the giant, umbrella-sh…
  • Maybe their friends were trying to tell them something!!

  • PRO
    Great to see another pair of the Tobisho secateurs by the way. Have them myself and love them!
  • PRO
    You have to admit it is a stunning architectural plant.

  • I have only come across one in my 30 years of gardening and that was about 25 ft. .tall that went about ten years as soon as they found out what it was   

  • I remember the panic over this plant a couple of years ago in a certain daily paper when I was out on on the tools. My workmate brought the article in to show me, but I'd seen the burns about 40 years​before when one of the lads at school had been playing near a hospital while his parents were visiting with a friend. A rather resourceful teacher had him go through a book of plants and identify it. The burns were what I remember the most. His skin just started shedding as the sun shone through the classroom window and eventually he ended up at Selly Oak A&E having them dressed. I don't remember what was done, but I see so much Hogweed here I always keep an eye out for it.

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