Recently I watched this video:
From the rubric to the video: Modern Russia has a lot of problems on their hands, you can probably name them all. But there's one big problem that is really, REALLY different from all other. Heracleum sosnowskyi, Sosnowsky's hogweed, or as we call it, Борщевик Сосновского. This plant was brought to Russia from Caucasus by Soviet scientists and was used as silage for many years. How did an ordinary agricultural weed transform into a nationwide hazard? Let's find out.
The video is well worth watching, containing much interesting history, as well as a possible way of dealing with the problem.
It is similar to Heracleum mantegazzianum, also from the Caucasus, which is the giant hogweed with similar chemical properties which has become invasive in Great Britain, Canada, and probably many other countries.
But not all hogweeds are bad. The common hogweed, Heracleum sphondylium, has been used across Eurasia for centuries as a potherb: its name in Russian is borshchevik, and is the origin of the name of borshch. At school some of us used to cut sections of the stem and add a notch near one end to produce “musical” instruments which made a rather rude noise, to which we gave the name fartophones.
When I was at school, we bought our vegetable and flower seeds from a well-known seed firm. Their catalogue listed Heracleum mantegazzianum and another giant species, Heracleum villosum. At that time, the properties of giant hogweeds were not widely known. We chose H. villosum, perhaps because it was not quite so tall. Although it did set seed, it did not prove a problem in our garden, only a few seedlings popping up here and there. Maybe there was some critter around that liked to feed on the seeds. Moreover, we did not suffer any ill effects from this plant.
Were we dicing with photosensitive dermatitis or other horrors? Wikipedia only gives articles on the plant in four languages, Russian, Swedish, and two from the Philippines, namely Cebuano and Waray. Here is a link to the Russian article: Борщевик мохнатый — Википедия. Condensed from this article:
Shaggy cow parsnip (so Google Translate calls it) grows wild in the wooded areas of the Caucasus and Crimea, Asia Minor and Europe.
In Russia, it is cultivated in the foothill regions of the Krasnodar Territory, near the Black Sea.
The essential hogweed or heracleum oil, contained in the seeds, is extracted by steam distillation. The main component is octyl ester of acetic acid (up to 80%). The oil is soluble in 80% alcohol and is used as a source of octyl alcohol used in the perfumery industry.
Octyl ether or ester, the word эфир translates as both — the word “ester” was coined in German as as contraction of Essig "vinegar" + Äther "ether", referring to ethyl acetate — exhibits high anti-trichomonas activity and is recommended for use in medicine.
The plant is used in the production of brine cheeses of Transcaucasia. It is also used as a seasoning.
It has other medicinal uses, but in large doses, it can cause poisoning.
So it seems there was not so much to worry about.
And one more thing: a search for the term ‘cow parsnip’ leads to Heracleum maximum - Wikipedia, it is the only member of the genus Heracleum native to North America. The species is widely recognized as a valuable pasture plant for cows, sheep, and goats. It is also known to be important in the diets of numerous wild animals, especially bears, both grizzly bears and black bears.
Regarding hogweeds, one has to distinguish North Americans from Caucasians!