Moscow region says weed out Sosnowsky’s hogweed or face fines

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MOSCOW, October 31. /TASS/. The Moscow Region’s new provisions to a local law will take effect on November 1, which mandate fines for those who fail to combat the spread of Sosnowsky’s hogweed. Individuals may face fines of 2,000 to 5,000 rubles ($30-75), while companies may have to shell out 150,000 to one mln rubles ($2,300-15,200).

Sosnowsky’s hogweed (Heracleum sosnowskyi) is a grass plant that can grow three to four meters high, which has white or pink umbrella-shaped flowers reaching up to 80 centimeters in diameter. It is perennial and can withstand both cold weather and drought. Unlike the Siberian hogweed (Heracleum sibiricum), this plant is unfit for human consumption.

Alpine meadows in the Caucasus and Turkey are the natural habitat of Sosnowsky’s hogweed.

In the 1970s, the plant began to be cultivated in Central Russia as a silage crop. However, cows reluctantly ate it, while the quality of their milk and meat deteriorated. In the early 1990s, a significant part of Sosnowsky’s hogweed cropland was abandoned. After going out of cultivation and being deprived of expert care, the plant started to crop up like wildfire. According to some estimates, Sosnowsky’s hogweed currently occupies over one million hectares of land in the European and northwestern parts of Russia, hindering the growth of other crops and disrupting the biological balance.

Sosnowsky’s hogweed has strong phytotoxic properties. In contact with skin, substances contained in the plant’s juice – called furocoumarins – quickly absorb and if sunlight falls on the affected skin, it may cause severe burns. In the event of contact with the eye, the juice can burn the cornea and cause blindness.

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