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July 19, 2005

Attack of the Giant Hogweed
Posted by Teresa at 12:45 PM * 120 comments

Photos of Giant Hogweed fascinate me because it always looks like an obvious Photoshop retouch job. It’s nasty toxic invasive stuff, by the way; don’t touch it with your bare skin.

Comments on Attack of the Giant Hogweed:
#1 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 01:31 PM:

"After the burns subside, darkened areas or scars can persist for several years. The affected areas remain sensitive to sunlight so it is important to keep the burned areas away from direct sunlight as much as possible."

So, I guess this won't be another recipe thread then, eh?

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 01:39 PM:

Nah. But in the Tolkien universe, this stuff turns you into a temporary creature of evil.

#3 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 01:41 PM:

Maybe if you boil it for a really long time . . .

#4 ::: Tiel ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 01:47 PM:

"The security of a castle rests on ye eyeballs of its sentries." Curse of the Giant Hogweed

I don't remember the author...

#5 ::: Lenore Jean Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 01:54 PM:

Charlotte MacLeod. My least favorite of her mysteries, actually, though it's the most openly fantastic of the lot. The rest are full of wonderful silliness.

#6 ::: Thel ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 02:12 PM:

Earlier this year I saw a patch of robust weedy plants down near Shilshole Bay in Seattle. They were already more than four feet tall. I was fascinated enough to take several pictures and pore over Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast trying to figure out what it was.

After looking at the map of giant hogweed's identified locations in 2004 in King County, I'm almost certain that's what my mystery monster plant was. I'll have to stroll down there this evening and see if that patch has been dealt with.

A mystery solved! Thanks!

#7 ::: Tiel ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 02:27 PM:

Lenore: thanks. "Hogweed" just took me by surprise-- it was hiding in a collection of normal mystery stories...

#8 ::: Tiel ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 02:28 PM:

Thel: there are a couple of native plants in the Northwest that look similar to giant hogweed and can grow up to 4-6 feet. Wild parsnip, which is safe to eat; water hemlock, which is poisonous (but only if you actually eat it, unlike giant hogweed).

#9 ::: TH ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 02:56 PM:

You're mean.

I thought I had passed my recent seventies music binge, and now I need to listen to "Nursery Cryme". And I can't find it.

I'm suffering.

#10 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 03:01 PM:

It might be the case that these plants are immune to all our herbicidal battery, but I understand that sea water does the job quite nicely.

#11 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 03:10 PM:

Obligatory Triffid reference.

Discussion of the BBC TV series, with picture of their model of the Triffid here:
and the poster from the 1962 movie can be seen here:

#12 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 03:25 PM:

Hogweed versus Hogwarts. Pictures at 11.

#13 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 03:52 PM:

If hope that wasn't a spoiler for book 6!

#14 ::: Tiel ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 04:02 PM:

See, the Whomping Willow never forgave Ron & Harry for crashing a car into it in Book 2 and eluding its clutches in Book 3... and now, due to an unusually careless bit of magic on the part of Professor Sprout, it's gained the ability to exude bubotuber pus...

#15 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 04:19 PM:

Conjecture in San Diego has a regular Mad Science Fair. If I can find a reasonably priced bell jar and an appropriately scary bromeliad, I'm thinking to show off how crossbreeding the deadly triffid to the sweet tribble creates the deadly sweet trifle.

Also needed of course are a toy tribble of the sort found at every con in the 80s and a good trifle recipe.

#16 ::: Wim ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 05:25 PM:

I found an almost-certainly-Giant-Hogweed near where I lived in the U District of Seattle a few years ago. I was unnerved by it, this giant alien plant which quickly grew taller than I was. A friend identified it from photos I took, but when I went back to eradicate it someone else had already chopped it down.

I never noticed any photosensitivity from touching it but it may have been one of those years without much direct sunlight.

#17 ::: Leslie Turek ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 05:39 PM:

A similar-looking native plant is Angelica, which grows very tall and is in the same family (Umbelliferae) as the Giant Hogweed.

#18 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 05:42 PM:

Hmm, not sure if it's exactly the same thing, but none of those photos looked as spectacular as the outbreak of giant hogweed down the road from my mother's house in Cornwall in the UK. Leaves the size of VW bugs! Giant scary triffid flowers! It does look like a plant from a different, rather larger planet.

Japanese knotweed is the other big pest. It covers (or did; the National Trust did a big removal project a few years back, I don't know how it went) the whole valley with over-head-height indestructible bamboo-like planets. You virtually have to salt the earth to get rid of it - it leaves bits of roots that will regrow if you pull it up or chop it down.

#19 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 05:51 PM:

Have you seen any growing in the NYC area, and if so where?

#20 ::: Jasper Janssen ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 07:48 PM:

That's what we in the Netherlands call (literally translated) "Bearclaw" (presumably more for its effects than its looks). Interestingly, at least one person here makes didgeridoos out of the dried stems. Only native plant he could find, here, that was suitable. It seems to work.

#21 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 08:48 PM:

b>(Umbelliferae) as the Giant Hogweed.

for Umbelliferae, read Apiaceae, if you're going to go looking it up in newer books.

I'm just the messenger, okay?

-- though I do, reluctantly, approve of the changes -- since they cause all the botanical family names to be formed the same way.

#22 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 08:50 PM:

It's the new Supreme Cout Nominee. Aaaah!

#23 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 09:03 PM:

Kathryn, that was my first thought, too...there's a decided resemblance, isn't there?

#24 ::: risa ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 10:15 PM:

All of these pictures evoke the concept of Invasion of the Body Snatchers pushed from bad to worse. What's most horrible to me is seeing the child on this site blistered and scabbed around the eye while still smiling...

#25 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 10:19 PM:

Robert, if you're asking about Giant Hogweed, I don't think there's been any reported in the city, but I wouldn't be surprised if it turned up northward. It's been reported in Connecticut.

If you're asking about Japanese knotweed, there's more of it about than any description of mine could do justice. It leads devout organic gardeners to reach for the Roundup, if not a flamethrower.

#26 ::: Connie ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 10:39 PM:

Giant Hogweed has definitely been spotted in Massachusetts, there have been newspaper articles about it -- so CT doesn't seem out of the question.

#27 ::: MikeB ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 12:57 AM:

Looks like this could turn into a a cooking thread after all:

"The dried fruits of the plant are used as a spice in Iranian cooking and are thus frequently intercepted by PPQ Officers during border clearance of passengers entering the U.S. from that region."

#28 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 02:06 AM:

Found a couple of Giant Hogweeds growing near Puget Ridge CoHousing in West Seattle while I was living there; we reported them to the appropriate authorities, who removed them.

They were apparently originally imported as ornamentals. They really are huge, and grow very rapidly. Avoid them like a cliche!

(We also had a volunteer hemlock show up near our front porch -- it was a very pretty plant, with spotted stalks and a carrot-like featheriness of leaves.)

#29 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 02:24 AM:

I guess I'm the only one who thinks that around the tops they look like dill on steroids.


#30 ::: Tony Cullen ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 07:50 AM:

by the way; don’t touch it with your bare skin.

"Strike by night, They are defenceless.
They need the sun to photosensitize their venom."

From the old (as in Peter Gabriel era) Genesis song, 'The Return of the Giant Hogweed'.

#31 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 08:14 AM:

Teresa --

I have never had to deal with knotweed, but Jerusalem artichokes can be eradicated by means of slitting the stems, inserting a length of wick clean through, and sticking the other end of the wick in a jar of strongish ammonia solution.

I wouldn't try the flamethrower; almost everything has evolved in a context of having a fire pass through from time to time.

#32 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 08:31 AM:

Hold it. Umbelliferae are now Apiaceae? They can't do that to me. Umbelliferae was the perfect name for that lot. Besides, I'm still getting used to Apatosaurus.

I heard a rumor that Chrysanthemum leucanthemum has been renamed: farewell, Linnaean oxymoron.

Graydon, I was under the impression that one neutralizes Jerusalem artichokes by eating them.

#33 ::: Tayefeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 09:21 AM:

Jasper, I thought Bearclaw had less feathery leaves than this stuff. I have to admit that that was my first thought as well, but the Giant Hogweed leaves look much less like bear paws than what I remember of Bearclaw.

Then again, we never stopped to inspect the Bearclaw leaves.

#34 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 09:35 AM:

Jerusalem artichokes are certainly worth eating, but convincing them to stop strangling the baby currant plants involved removing some number of opportunistic instances of the species from that patch of ground.

Since they're reported very hard to kill (digging them up didn't work) I thought the technique might be applicable to other pesky plants.

#35 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 09:53 AM:

Sometimes I really do wonder if alien plants don't fall to earth from pan-galactic seadpods, their existance subsequently covered up by a secret cabal of botanists.

"Oh sure, that's ah... Giant Hogweed. Yep. Of course it's native to this region... of space. I mean! Just don't touch it. It ate your baby? really? And weed killer makes it giggle? Fascinating..."

#36 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 10:11 AM:

Yes, they did. THey changed all the family names that weren't to the pattern "representative species name+aceae." So that Cruciferae became Brassicaceae, Umbellieferae became Apiaceae ("Like celery"), and so on. You really need to know both, because of older books and holdouts. But most new books that I've seen put both names in at least one place somewhere.

I liked those old names, too, but there's a certain beauty to all the names having the same form.

#37 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 10:14 AM:

Alien plants? You mean like Tacca chantrieri, otherwise known as Bat Plant? It supposedly comes from Yunnan -- or so the botanists say.

#38 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 10:17 AM:

It supposedly comes from Yunnan

You misspelled Yuggoth.

#39 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 10:26 AM:

Bat Plants are from Yunnan, Fungi are from Yuggoth.

#40 ::: "Orange Mike" Lowrey ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 10:32 AM:

I feel like the 19th century farmer who is said to have commented, upon seeing an elephant, "There ain't no such animal!"

#41 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 10:41 AM:

I'm used to you and Patrick putting different links in the words of a phrase, but different links in the syllables is fancier than I would have expected. But so is the plant.

#42 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 11:15 AM:

Well, barf. Who cares if the names all have the same form? This is a very foolish imposition of consistency. It's not like we're going to try to remember the name of that group of plants, think "Oh yeah, the ones that're like celery," and from there go on to Apiaceae. It will be a name remembered for its own sake; and for that, Umbelliferae is just as good and arguably quite a lot better than Apiaceae.

Umbelliferae are the plants that characteristically bear umbel-flowers, simple and compound. When we see a new one, an unknown, we don't say "Oh look, it's like celery," because it's not; it's like celery and Queen Anne's lace and hemlock and carrots and angelica and wild fennel, that whole morphologically distinctive family. We take in its foliage and inflorescences in a single comprehensive look, and silently say Umbelliferae.

What are Solanaceae but plants that look like Solanaceae? There's no one plant in it that shares obvious resemblances with all the others, but they all resemble other Solanaceae, and are recognizable as such. We don't understand plant families as one pattern with variations; we understand them as a group that shares underlying characteristics, expressed in multiple variant forms.

What's the pattern species for Brassicaceae? Are they more like mustard, turnip, radish, rapeseed, horseradish, cabbage, canola, collard, kale, kohlrabi, cauliflower, bok choi, brussels sprouts, watercress, wallflowers, gillyflowers, alyssum, lunaria, stocks, or dame's rocket? I don't see how picking one and saying it's the pattern species is an improvement on calling them Cruciferae, for the characteristic cross-shaped flowers they all bear.

...Is this a geek rant, or what?

#43 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 11:21 AM:

Orange Mike, I've seen 'em in person. Thompson & Morgan will sell you seeds.

Jim, is that a self-help book?

Lucy, I've always played games with links, and, more recently, title tags. One time I linked all the words in a phrase to one URL, and the spaces between them to another. That was fun. Also, check out the title tags (in order) in the pygmy mammoth post.

#44 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 11:22 AM:

There's absolutely no way that Bat Plant comes from Earth, or any of the inner planets (alright, maybe Venus. Maybe.)

Plants like this make me want to make a Space Opera Movie, just so I can put them in the background and have the place genuinely look alien, as opposed to just sticking people with funny things on their foreheads in a forest and slapping on a yellow or red filter. I've always suspected that Betelgeuse would more resemble the place where Bat Plants and Giant Hogweed (and Titan Arum) comes from, as opposed to the park behind Paramount Studios.

#45 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 11:23 AM:

For years I thought the Giant Hogweed was a fictional plant made up for the Genesis song. Then awhile back I read something about it in the news. And now it's on Making Light. I do a lot of hiking in New York and New Jersey - now I'll have to look out for Giant Hogweed in addition to bears (one encounter so far) and rattlesnakes (three encounters). (If you're curious, rattlesnakes are scarier.)

#46 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 11:53 AM:

The number of "aha!" moments I get from reading this blog approaches infinity. The bat plant links reminded me of J.K. Huysman's A rebours (Against the Grain), in which a decadent fin-de-siècle type decides that he wants a garden of plants that look fake. Now I know what he meant.

#47 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 12:37 PM:

Jon Sobel:

I think that rattlesnakes are scarier than bears because bears are more likely to be scared by humans.

By that logic, Giant Hogweed would be more scary than either, because I have never known a human to be able to scare a plant. (Not that any gardener hasn't given it a try anyhow.)

#48 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 12:41 PM:

Once upon a sunny morning a man who sat in a breakfast nook looked up from his scrambled eggs to see a Brontosaurus with a graceful neck quietly cropping the Umbelliferae in the garden. The man went up to the bedroom where his wife was still asleep and woke her. "There's a Brontosaurus in the garden," he said. "Eating umbel-flowers, simple and complex." She opened one unfriendly eye and looked at him. "Your nomenclature is so last millennium," she said, and turned her back on him.

#49 ::: Jon Sobel ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 12:42 PM:

It's true, you can't scare a plant, but (except in Harry Potter stories) you can safely walk around it. Walking around a rattlesnake that's blocking your trail is scary business, though.

#50 ::: Jimbo ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 12:45 PM:

Turn and run!
Nothing can stop them,
Around every river and canal their power is growing.
Stamp them out!
We must destroy them,
They infiltrate each city with their thick dark warning odour.

They are invincible,
They seem immune to all our herbicidal battering.

Long ago in the Russian hills,
A Victorian explorer found the regal Hogweed by a marsh,
He captured it and brought it home.
Botanical creature stirs, seeking revenge.
Royal beast did not forget.
He came home to London,
And made a present of the Hogweed to the Royal Gardens at Kew.

Waste no time!
They are approaching.
Hurry now, we must protect ourselves and find some shelter
Strike by night!
They are defenceless.
They all need the sun to photosensitize their venom.

Still they're invincible,
Still they're immune to all our herbicidal battering.

Fashionable country gentlemen had some cultivated wild gardens,
In which they innocently planted the Giant Hogweed throughout the land.
Botanical creature stirs, seeking revenge.
Royal beast did not forget.
Soon they escaped, spreading their seed,
Preparing for an onslaught, threatening the human race.

Mighty Hogweed is avenged.
Human bodies soon will know our anger.
Kill them with your Hogweed hairs

#51 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 01:06 PM:

I think that rattlesnakes are scarier than bears because bears are more likely to be scared by humans.

Having had to deal with both as a child:

Bears are much more scary. A rattle snake just wants to be left alone and tells you. A bear wants something from you and will come through a glass window to get it.

Hogsweed...well this is one of those Iago induced questions I've always wondered about.

Is the plant more evil and scary because it has no motive?

Or is it good because it fulfils it's purpose in life and we are evil for preventing that, therefore making it evil?

Stupid philosophical acorn...

#52 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 01:13 PM:

Mike, that makes me want to pirouette en pointe, except I can't do that. But now I want to.

Bears are scarier than rattlesnakes because you're too big for a rattlesnake to eat.

#53 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 02:15 PM:

If you're going to be in Scotland for the worldcon, and have time to make a side trip over to Edinburgh, I must report that there are (or were -- I haven't been that way this summer) large numbers of giant hogweeds (and hemlock! don't forget the hemlock!) down by the Water of Leith. I believe Destroying Angel and Death Cap have also been seen there.

If in posession of a hire car with the intention of driving south from Scotland into England, one might prefer to take the A1 (the old Roman great north road, now mostly a motorway but with annoying excursions into single-lane-ness) south from Edinburgh. About 40-50 miles south of the city, there's the town of Alnwick (pronounced: ANN-ick) which boasts a gigantic second hand bookshop disguised as a former railway station, and a castle with a garden, open to the public, that is populated exclusively by poisonous plants.

#54 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 02:51 PM:

"a castle with a garden, open to the public, that is populated exclusively by poisonous plants."

Of course, that could mean that the castle is populated exclusively by poisonous plants, which makes one wonder about inbreeding in royal families.

War of the Roses and the Battle of the Destroying Angels.

#55 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 03:19 PM:

Way off topic here... I just read in the San Francisco Chronicle that James Doohan had died.

#56 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 03:55 PM:

A poison garden! Was there ever an adventurous gardener who didn't fantasize about having one? I must confess that if I had access to giant hogweed seeds, the temptation to grow one ... you know, just one, in my own garden ... and I'd make sure it didn't let loose seeds ...

(So sinful. I've cultivated purple loosestrife, too.)

#57 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 03:55 PM:

Open thread, Serge.

#58 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 04:35 PM:

I dream of one day, planting a poison garden. It'll probably just be a dream, as most of those botanicals are illegal.

"I swear, officer, I grew that Cannabis Indica purely for aesthetics."

#59 ::: Alter S. Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 04:50 PM:

Charlie Stross wrote:

If you're going to be in Scotland for the worldcon, and have time to make a side trip over to Edinburgh, (. . .) I believe Destroying Angel and Death Cap have also been seen by (the Water of Leith).

I've seen Destroying Angels in the Ramble, in New York's Central Park. Can't recall seeing any Death Caps there, but I have seen them up in Van Courtland Park, in Riverdale.

(There are also about twenty good Maitake producing oaks in Central Park that I know of, though I'll admit that I probably couldn't point out more than a half dozen of them with any confidence when out of season -- for most of them I know the general area but not the specific tree.)

#60 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 04:51 PM:

In regards to poison gardens:
A mystery writer could claim it was for research. (Not being a tax lawyer, I don't know about deductibility.)

#61 ::: Maureen Kincaid Speller ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 04:57 PM:

Keith, there is a poison garden open to the public at Alnwick, in northern England. I've not visited yet but have a plan to – like you, I have fancied having a poison garden.

More details here

#62 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 05:00 PM:

Lois Fundis:

IANTL (I Am No Tax Lawyer), but I suspect that the relevant precedent wold be the case (forget the defendant's name) who was audited by the IRS. The Taxman insisted that the taxpayer was obviously just a horselover who falsely clamed business deductions on stables and the like for an obvious hobby. The taxpayer whipped out affadavits from doctors that she suffered from severe allergies to horsehair, and thus could not be doing this for pleasure, but only with a legitimate attempt to make a profit.

#63 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 05:25 PM:

Teresa, I was asking about the giant hogweed. According to the Massachusetts bulletin you linked to, it's been spotted in NY State, os one can only imagine that somewhere, in some neglected park in the Bronx, say...

A poison garden! Was there ever an adventurous gardener who didn't fantasize about having one?

Just make sure you don't end up like Rappaccini's daughter...

#64 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 05:53 PM:

If you make a poison garden, I want a little vial of Giant Hogweed juice. I don't have any plans for it, I just think that super-photo-sensitivity is about the coolest poison I've ever heard of. I've never even imagined such a thing before!

A poison that doesn't actually attack your nerves, or your blood, but acts as a force-multiplier for something else also in your environment. Something about that is very, very cool.

You could also market it to George Harrison, he would only need a few minutes in the sun every day to maintain his leather-like complexion.

#65 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 06:05 PM:

There was a poison garden in the James Bond book set in Japan -- I belive the villan had poison fish in his koi ponds as well. Might as well go whole hog, so to speak...

#66 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 06:39 PM:

MKK - I thought they looked a bit like giant Queen Anne's Lace, myself.

#67 ::: Kayjay ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 10:24 PM:

We have something similar, though much smaller in Wisconsin: Wild Parsnip. The first time I saw it, I thought it was wild dill, and thought about picking some. Then I subbed as an educational assistant in middle school biology class and found out about its nefarious photo-sensitivity properties. Made me very glad I hadn't tried to harvest it.

#68 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 10:29 PM:

Above all, if you value your very sanity, don't EVER eat the Wild Deewgoh. It'll make you agonizingly sensitive to darkness.

#69 ::: Lenore Jean Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 10:58 PM:

We have 14 foot tall Japanese knotweed occupying the entirety of our northern and western neighbors' back yards, with regular incursions into ours and into our southern neighbor's. We didn't know what it was for a long time, and just referred to it as "jungle plant". Amazing stuff. I'm very glad it's not hogweed....

#70 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 02:36 AM:

Alter, in my experience good mushroom sites move around every few years. The best place to get boletes has been shifting bit by bit every year that we've been gathering them. Our favorite king bolete ground produced nearly nothing this year, and so did our favorite chanterelle ground. But when we went to check out our friend's second favorite chanterelle ground, we found enough craterellus to fill more than two grocery bags, which meant, of course, that I had to make lots of mushroom empanadas and soup and fragrant rice.

As for your amanita phalloides (death cap) and amanita ocreata (destroying angel), they're pretty common in the world at large, and fairly distinct, except that a. phalloides looks enough like the delicious a. calyptrata that we pass over at least a few of the latter every year. After all -- coccora (a. calyptrata)is really really nice, but I'd rather live, and miss one nice mushroom or even a dozen, than to get greedy and maybe die over it.

I've never been around when anybody found maitake, but my friend has brought us some in the past.

You want geeky, Teresa? You can have geeky (more coming).

#71 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 03:32 AM:

Here is a taxonomic description of the apiaceae.

Notice how there's a lot more going on than ummbels?

And then, think about the fact that umbels are found on some other plants -- for example, elderberries (which are in the caprifoliaceae and look nothing like apiaceae)

So that's why I think we had to lose the lovely old family names, some of which were rfepresentative names and some of which were descriptive (compositae, umbelliferae, cruciferae, leguminosae).

Notice you can still find the plants under their old names in a lot of places.

Why is the genus name for giant hogweed Heracleum? What does it have to do with Hercules -- is it because it's big?

#72 ::: Anton P. Nym (aka Steve) ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 08:32 AM:

A note on giant Hogweed in the local news this morning; a family in (Goderich, I think, up near Lake Huron anyway) has two children still being treated for skin blistering caused by the weed three weeks ago. Nasty stuff, that.

#73 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 08:40 AM:

Lucy, that is True Geek from True Geek.

#74 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 09:33 AM:

Mushroom story, possible rural legend:

Here in Michigan, when I was growing up, we'd go mushrooming all the time. Some friends of friends of ours also did a lot of picking.

Once, this family went out on a Sunday morning and picked a batch of mushrooms. While they were cooking them up for a Sunday dinner, they fed some to the cat. Then, they all sat down and ate. As soon as they were finished, the cat began to vomit. A call was made to the doctor, who told them to meet him at the hospital. The entire family had their stomachs pumped.

When they returned home, they found their cat nestled under the table with a new litter of kittens.

#75 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 10:14 AM:

I believe that mushroom story.

I would like to point out that a mushroom does not have to be toxic to give you trouble. Overeating is a potential problem when you find a vast ground of something rare and delicious and you bring them all home. They're more ephemeral than most food and the temptation is to eat them all on the spot. Which is why I own a dehydrator (also good for too many plums or apricots or apples or persimmons or . . .)

Also, allergies are not unknown.

#76 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 10:14 AM:

"What does it have to do with Hercules?"

Coincidently, there was a "stub" web page at entitled "HydraandHercules." That meant that they'd set up a properly formatted page in their encyclopedia, with no content. What could Hercules and the Hydra have to do with Hogweed OR Mathematics? So I whipped this up, and submitted it ...

In Greek mythology, The Hydra was was Hercules' Second Labor, of a total of 12, which he tok 12 years to accomplish, for a mean rate dLabor/dt = 1 year^(-1). King Eurystheus, who had tenure, ordered Hercules to kill the gigantic multi-headed dragon, raised in the swamp of Lerna, which initially possessed anywhere from 6 to 9 heads (depending on which version of the story you read, but usually a semiprime) with the middle one being immortal. Its breath and blood were deadly. Whenever Hercules smashed one head with his club, two would grow where one had been. Hercules thus, after n blows of the club, faced 6+n to 9+n hydra heads, while simultaneously having his feet bitten by the hydra's sidekick, a crab. Hercules considered methods that would crush all the heads at once, but quickly calculated that doing this m times would make the hydra have (2^m)(6+n) to (2^m)(9+n). He smashed the crab, and called for his collaborator Iolaus, who applied Graph Theory by setting fire to part of the nearby grove of trees, then stopped the heads from sprouting up by cauterizing the stumps with torches. Hercules, having killed all but one heads, cut off the immortal head, buried it beside the road, and placed a boulder on top of that. He then performed manifold sugery by cutting open the body of the hydra, and dipping his vectorial arrows in its deadly bile. King Eurystheus, however, said that Hercules could not count this labor among the 12, since he violated protocol by having an uncredited coauthor help him defeat the monster. The Hydra has a constellation named after it, but nobody knows the Erdos number of Hercules.

#77 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 10:26 AM:

Jonathan, you should send your description of Hercules's fight against the Hydra to Robert Halmi. This would make us forget his dreadful mini-series about Jason and the Argonauts, where Jason was played by an actor even worse than the kid in "Star Wars - the Dumb Menace".

#78 ::: Connie ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 10:36 AM:

Sean Bosker, marketing Giant Hogweed Juice to =George Harrison= would be difficult, what with him being dead and all. Perhaps you might try Keith Richard instead?

I understand that one of the difficulties in dealing with mushroom poisoning is that the toxins attack the liver, so that it may take several days for symptoms to be evident (as the liver dies, ceasing its functioning) so that the opportunity-window for stomach-pumping and other immediate measures that might help has closed.

#79 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 10:53 AM:

Speaking of wildlife, and a different interest of Theresa's – Hundreds of Gerbils found in home. ("RSPCA inspectors found more than 550 live gerbils when they raided a one-bedroom bungalow. They were being kept in cages, tanks, wine boxes and washing up bowls stacked more than six feet high in the house in Portsmouth, Hampshire.")

Now, if only gerbils ate Giant Hogweed ...

#80 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 11:08 AM:


Technically speaking, the Gerbils - Giant Hogweed system would be governed by Lotka-Volterra Equations. Math-adverse folks are advised to power-off their PCs right now.

See the link for colored graphs.

The Lotka-Volterra equations describe an ecological predator-prey (or parasite-host) model which assumes that, for a set of fixed positive constants A (the growth rate of prey = Hogweed), B (the rate at which predators destroy prey = the crunch-now-light-sensitive-later coefficient), C (the death rate of predators + RSPCA removal of said Gerbils), and D (the rate at which predators increase by consuming prey), the following conditions hold.

1. A prey population x increases at a rate
dx = A x dt (proportional to the number of prey) but is simultaneously destroyed by predators at a rate dx = -B xy dt (proportional to the product of the numbers of prey and predators).

2. A predator population y decreases at a rate
dy = -C y dt (proportional to the number of predators), but increases at a rate dy = D y dt (again proportional to the product of the numbers of prey and predators).

Although Mathworld doesn't mention this, a third species in the system, which eats one or the other of predator/prey, can easily lead to chaos.

Which is the natural state of things in the blogosphere, anyway...

#81 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 01:09 PM:

"Now, if only gerbils ate Giant Hogweed ..."

They probably could eat it.


#82 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 01:24 PM:

Gerbils and Giant Hogweed... This is starting to feel like one of Terry Gilliam's animated shorts.

#84 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 03:59 PM:

Connie said, "marketing Giant Hogweed Juice to =George Harrison= would be difficult, what with him being dead and all. Perhaps you might try Keith Richard instead?"

Oops. I hate it when I go from making a joke to speaking ill of the dead.

#85 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 06:44 PM:

We had a cat hoarder recently in the DC area. Between her two houses, she had more than 500 cats, more than half of which were dead and in rubbermaid containers, and only eight were well enough to not get killed. Two days ago, a judge said she can't have pets anymore. She agreed, but because of the order, the police can go check now. Both of the houses were posted uninhabitable. In one house, some of the cats were in the walls, the chimney, and furniture.

#86 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 09:21 PM:

Robert L: I love you. Marry me?

That's immediately what I thought since that's one of my favorite Hawthorne stories and I like his stories a lot.


#87 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 09:33 PM:

Goodness. There's a thought.

Lucy, I may never in my life make a better dish than the night my lovingly tended potroast, with all its caramelized onions, had added to it at the last minute a medium-sized grocery bag of chanterelles, which my housemate had gathered but couldn't eat before she had to leave on a trip. I washed them and cut them up into fairish chunks, packed them in on top of the roast, returned it to the oven, and deglazed the whole with dry sherry once the mushrooms had cooked down.

If that was overeating, I'd like to do it again.

#88 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 09:40 PM:

Connie said, "marketing Giant Hogweed Juice to =George Harrison= would be difficult, what with him being dead and all. Perhaps you might try Keith Richard instead?"

Oops. I hate it when I go from making a joke to speaking ill of the dead.

You meant George Hamilton.

#89 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 09:46 PM:

Xopher: George Hamilton, the 5th Beatle, also known as The Tan One.

#90 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 11:52 PM:

I've never heard of anybody getting sick on chanterelles. I suppose it could happen. I think I did overdo the craterellus this winter. Either that of I got a very mild bug from somewhere.

#91 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2005, 09:19 AM:

You meant George Hamilton.

Oh man. I'd better quit while I'm behind.

I wish I had some of that mushroom potroast to go with my humble pie.

#92 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2005, 10:37 AM:

Mary Kay: Er, uh, I...//blushes, mumbles incoherently, stares at the floor...// Well, if we ever meet up, I'd be glad to have a drink with you. I do like Hawthorne, what I've read of him (mainly Mosses from an Old Manse) quite a bit.

That bit about R.'s daughter (it is a great little story) was also a bit of an affectionate dig at TNH that she'll understand...

#93 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2005, 05:15 PM:

And today, another cat hoarder with 120 cats and the house is so bad it has to be torn down. Again, an elderly woman. I sure hope I won't lose my common sense when I get older.

#94 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2005, 08:30 AM:

This morning I was dozing while listening to Sunday Baroque on NPR. I kept hearing the name of a harpsichordist and conducter of baroque ensembles named Christopher Hogwood. Because of this thread, I dreamed about Attack of the Giant Hogwood.

At first, it was a giant man in a tricorne hat, who played a giant harpsichord that caused...I'm not sure what. Then there was a young couple, baroque musicians, who were escaping in terror because The Hogwood wanted them to play in his ensemble and threatened them when they refused.

For some reason they were driving an extremely snazzy tiny red sportscar. Product placement, no doubt, but I'm not sure who the car company thinks they're selling to...

I swear I actually had the dreams described. I do not, by any stretch, have a normal brain. Just thought you'd like to know.

#95 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2005, 12:47 PM:

Xopher, I also have narrative dreams with a recognizable plot. When I remember them at all.

#96 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2005, 02:01 PM:

Oh, is that considered weird? No, it never occurred to me that narrative dreams with a plot were weird...this is one of my more loosely plotted dreams. Some of mine are quite elaborate.

No, it was the giant menacing Christopher Hogwood, and the sports-car product placement that I thought were weird. (I mean, I don't drive, and no so little about cars that I couldn't have recognized the car even if it was a real one, which I doubt.)

#97 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2005, 04:20 PM:

Oh, great. And now, whenever I put on anything by the Academy of Ancient Music while driving in my 'extremely snazzy tiny red sportscar', the unbidden thought will pass though my head, "...Christopher 'Giant' Hogwood conducting."

Thanks, Xopher! (/sarcasm off)

#98 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2005, 07:51 PM:

Robert: Rappaccini's daughter, of course. One of the great fictional poison technologies, right up there with flowers so poisonous that you can die from smelling them.

I have a bottle in my kitchen labeled dubious almond flavoring. I was processing cherries a few years back, recalled an old recipe for making almond flavoring by macerating cherry stones in alcohol, and put up a jarful to soak. Later, when I strained off the extract, it certainly smelled strongly of almonds, but it occurred to me that I'd done quantities and maceration time from memory, and that I couldn't be sure how safe it was.

I ought to throw it away, but somehow I never do, any more than I throw away that pound or so of morning glory seeds, or the jarful of datura seeds.

#99 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2005, 08:22 PM:

.... but do your dreams feature scrolling credits, or outtakes?

#100 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2005, 08:35 PM:

Bill Blum:

My dreams have, many times, featured scrolling credits, even for things that I don't suspect I can do (such as Choreography). But outtakes? Not yet. But I think that you planted the notion, and my subconscious sees everything that I see, and more. It also remembers, or thinks it remembers, talents that I cannot still access on purpose, such as reading music and playing the violin. Fortunately I've paid attention, and let it help me with my Math and my Poetry. But, hmmmm, who's telling me to write this?

#101 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2005, 11:56 PM:

Teresa: I would not imagine that flavoring to be seriously toxic in the amounts in which you will use it.

We always put four or five apricot kernels in each jar of apricot jam.

#102 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2005, 08:50 AM:

Thanks, Lucy. That's reassuring.

Bill, my dreams don't feature scrolling credits or outtakes, but sometimes they have footnotes or editorial comments.

#103 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2005, 11:08 AM:

All artificial "almond flavoring" smells and tastes toxic to me. I just wish it could have some relationship to the actual taste of almonds! (Who invented this evil stuff, and why?) Of course I also think cucumbers taste like chlorine, so maybe I'm just weird.

Xopher: good one on Christopher Hogwood! But just imagine if he had been truly gigantic and couldn't fit into that little red sportscar....

#104 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2005, 11:21 AM:

Faren: no, it was the young action stars who were trying to escape from the Giant Hogwood in the sportscar. I imagine that if the dream had gone on longer, in a later scene he'd have picked it up (the action hero(ine) just barely escaping), crushed in in his gigantic hand, and used the tires to replace the harp-stop dampers on his immense harpsichord.

#105 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2005, 12:28 PM:

And as the Giant Hogwood dangles the lovely young starlet above the bubbling vat of almond jam, "Do anything you want with me! Just let her join Les Arts Florissants!"

#106 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2005, 12:29 PM:

Ack phooey. Nothing more embarrassing that screwing up the punchline....

And as the Giant Hogwood dangles the lovely young starlet above the bubbling vat of almond jam, the hero shouts, "Do anything you want with me! Just let her join Les Arts Florissants!"

#107 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2005, 01:53 PM:

TexAnne, it was perfectly clear who would be shouting that...and funny.

#108 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2005, 06:45 PM:

My dreams have soundtracks. I used to keep a voice-activated tape recorder next to the bed so I could sing what I remembered into it.

#109 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2005, 09:47 PM:

The only time my dreams have soundtracks is when I'm writing a novel. Both times so far I've dreamed part of the book as a musical.

#110 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2005, 08:20 PM:

Theoretically, I don't see why there couldn't be such a thing as a flower whose odor could kill. It doesn't take much cyanide to do the job. I could even see such a mechanism evolving naturally, to kill insects, like Venus' flytraps, sundews, etc.

I read recently that almonds were originally a poisonous plant, but were bred by ancient people to be a food plant.

When I was a kid I used to love to crack open the pits of dried prunes and eat the little nut that's inside. It tastes very much like an almond. I'm sure that at times I ate at least a dozen of them at one sitting. I don't remember ever feeling any ill effects.

Teresa, you should plant those morning glory seeds. I've noticed that in my neighborhood, there is actually quite a variety of morning glories growing on fences of parking lots, etc. Many are the common white bindweed, but there are many colorful ones. I tend to think that at some point there was a Johnny Morningloryseed of some sort who went around planting them at some time years ago.

As far as the psychedelic effects of m.g. seeds (which are not, incidentally, an illegal drug), aka ololiuqui, they are, according to a lecture I once went to by Dr. Albert Hofmann (the discoverer of LSD), very similar to those of LSD and mescaline. But only certain varieties have this effect. Here's an article by Hofmann on the subject:

I've never seen a good guide to distinguishing ololiuqui from other morning glories. If you ever find one, I'd be interested to see it. My understanding is that morning glories, much like, say, roses or orchids, have been hybridized, interbred, etc. so much that IDing different kinds can take a sophisticated knowledge.

Anyway, I encourage you to strew those seeds around various fences in your neighborhood. Or mine. I keep wondering whether some of the lovely varieties that grow here were of the ololiuqui variety, planted by some stoner back in the day.

#111 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2005, 08:31 PM:

Re narrative forms of dreams:

I often dream in/about software when I am designing or coding intensely. Sometimes they have actually come up with a useful solution to a problem.

Last night was a little different. After being woken at midnight by my three-year-old crying "Daddy, Daddy!" to tell me he had an earache, I slept fitfully the rest of the night. During that fitful sleep, I dreamed about inventing a software interface layer for sleeping which used a kind of virtualizing and caching interface to take a night full of broken and interrupted sleep episodes, and let the sleeper experience it as one continuous night of sound sleep.

I was very disappointed indeed to wake and realize that it was not a real invention; that would be an invention to bring me undying fame.

#112 ::: Mina W ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2005, 09:08 PM:

Almonds as well as avocados are some of the surprises on the potentially lethal plant lists. [Avocados on the lethal to animals list] My mother remembers being told as a kid that the lethal dose was about 70 almonds.

#113 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2005, 11:17 PM:

There's more than one kind of almond. Bitter almonds, the ones used for almond extract, are poisonous in quantity.

Googling turns up bitter almond toxicity but not sweet almonds, and even bitter almonds are apparently not toxic once they've been heated.

I imagine that there were always almonds whose nuts were not especially toxic.

#114 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2005, 12:29 AM:

Bitter almonds contain cyanide. In spy novels from the old, romantic, largely explosion-free E. Phillips Oppenheim era, just after a character -- either someone about to renverser les haricots or a just-exposed One of Them -- had dropped deadly incontinent (uh . . . you know what I mean), someone in the drawing room would sniff the decedent's breath and mutter, "The spirit of bitter almonds!" Sometimes he would go on to explain that this was cyanide, in case the other dilettanti assumed the fellow had just gotten blitzed on Amaretto.

In case you want to set your policier in, say, the Virgin Islands ("Still unwearied of the double-entendre, Mr. Bond?", raw cassavas also contain a risky amount of cyanide. And yes, it's volatile, and normal cooking will generally remove it.

#115 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2005, 12:59 PM:

Lucy: I imagine that there were always almonds whose nuts were not especially toxic.

My source for the statement that almonds were once poisonous but were bred to be edible is the new edition of Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking, which has a great deal on the evolution of food plants and animals, and generally strikes me as a pretty reliable source.

JMF: Yes, I too have read more than once of the scent of bitter almonds in the works of Agatha and others. All I know is, if you smell that or peach blossoms, get out of the room fast.

#116 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2005, 01:26 PM:

JMF: Yes, I too have read more than once of the scent of bitter almonds in the works of Agatha and others. All I know is, if you smell that or peach blossoms, get out of the room fast.

Likewise if you are in a room where, after a guest hits the floor like a bag of buttered Bath buns, someone else's first instinct is to determine what he or she smells like.

#117 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2005, 01:34 PM:

Cashews are also poisonous, or rather, their shells are. They are related to poison ivy. Cashews have to be carefully roasted, (the fumes given off are an irritant) then hand-shelled (wearing gloves, one presumes), to produce the edible nut.

#118 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2005, 05:15 PM:

Figures-I was just eating cashews when I read that last post. Had a moment of "What!?!"

#119 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 09:47 AM:

I don't know if it matters on a seven-year-old post, but linkrot has gotten most of them. "An" is still good, as are "invasive" and "stuff", and I can't check "looks" because it's behind a firewall for me, but all the other links are dead, lead to pages that don't mention giant hogweed, or are forbidden.

#120 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2012, 12:09 PM:

In the 7 years since this post, I've been noticing more and more giant hogweed on the roadsides. Invasive stuff, that.

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