Plants that look like hogweed are frequently confused for being hogweeds. Several species of plants closely resemble giant hogweed, but these plants also have some major differences.

Plants That Look Like Giant Hogweed

Identifying giant hogweed is not that difficult – you just need to know its fundamental characteristics and features. This article will explore some of the plants that are hogweed look-alikes and the features showing where they are similar or different. 

List of Giant Hogweed Look-alikes

Giant hogweed, also known by its botanical name of Heracleum mantegazzianum, is a herbaceous plant that can grow quite tall. It features a hollow stem and huge, finely serrated leaves.

In mid-summer, plants in their second year develop huge umbels of white flowers that resemble the flowers of other plants in the carrot family (Apiaceae). 

It is an invasive species with a dispersed distribution throughout southern and central Ontario, south of the line between Manitoulin Island and Ottawa.

Many plants are often confused with giant hogweed; however, these plants are smaller than mature hogweed, which grows up to 18 feet high in an ideal environment. 

1. Cow Parsnip

Cow parsnip is a North American native that thrives in various habitats such as forests, forest clearings, grasslands, stream and river borders, and roadsides. Its sap contains a phototoxic chemical, which, when exposed to UV radiation, causes skin irritation ranging from a minor rash to severe blistering.

Cow parsnip looks like big hogweed, but it is much smaller, does not have red dots on the stems, and is significantly less harmful. The stalks of giant hogweed are mottled crimson, similar to poison hemlock.

Growing Cow Parsnip on Country Side

– Growing Season

Cow parsnip blooms between late May and June, which is sooner than hogweed. Cow parsnips require a long growing season, therefore plant seeds as soon as the soil becomes workable in the spring.

– Specific Needs

Typical habitats that cow parsnip requires are often near water and in rich, moist soil, such as along stream banks, meadows, and in wet ditches. It also thrives in the partial shade of roadsides and floodplain woodlands. The plant loves well-drained loam or sandy loam.

2. Angelica

Angelica is a highly versatile ancient herb. It is actually a native of the carrot family and is a beautiful plant with handlike leaves and clusters of little white or white-greenish blooms that develop only in the second year (if not cut off, the plant usually dies).

The smooth, waxy green to purple stems of native purple-stemmed Angelica (no bristles, no nodules) and softball-sized clusters of greenish-white or white blooms, seldom reaching a foot across, distinguish it from giant hogweed.

White Angelica Flowers in Plants

– Growing Season

Angelica is easy to germinate at home; however, it may take several weeks. It is preferable to begin in late summer or early fall, although it can be done in early spring.

– Specific Needs

Angelica should be grown on wet soil in moderate shade. Mulch with well-rotted manure or compost once a year. It grows best in full sunlight to partial shade in rich, wet soils.

Angelica is a biennial, which means it will die after the second year of seed production. Plantings in the early spring are the most successful. Tamp the seeds in a damp potting mix in flats or trays, then top with a potting mix just slightly. 

3. Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne’s lace, often known as wild carrot, is a biennial subspecies of plant in the parsley family (Apiaceae) and an ancestor of the cultivated carrot.

It can reach a height of 5 feet and has bristly split leaves. It produces ribbed fruits with sharp spines in the umbels of pink or white flowers with a single dark purple blossom in the center.

Queen Anne’s lace and giant hogweed are often confused. Both feature an umbrella-like flower head with white blossoms and may grow in various environments.

Queen Annes Lace Flowers

– Growing Season

Queen Anne’s lace blooms from June to August in the late summer heat. It is a biennial plant taking two years to complete its life cycle. Planting seeds in the early fall is beneficial. 

– Specific Needs

It prefers full light and soil that is of ordinary quality but drains well. It will not tolerate cold temperatures, hence sow your Queen Anne’s Lace seeds after the final frost.

Plant them in the fall; the seeds will remain inactive until the weather warms up in the spring. Queen Anne’s lace grows best on nutrient-deficient soils and in arid conditions. It thrives in loamy soil that is neutral or slightly acidic.

4. Wild Lettuce

Wild lettuce is a plant traditionally used to relieve pain and promote sleep. People who are looking for alternatives to traditional drugs utilize it. This herb grows well in sunny areas along riverbanks and roadsides and can reach 6 feet. Wild lettuce leaves are bright green and emerge from a green stalk that is occasionally stained purple.

– Growing Season

Wild lettuce is a winter annual; therefore, seeds develop in late summer or early fall and grow to bloom the following year. Therefore, you should plant lettuce between two weeks before the final spring frost and two weeks after the last spring frost. In most areas, another crop of lettuce can be planted in the early winter or fall season.

White and Yellow Wild Lettuce Flowers

– Specific Needs

Wild lettuce might be relatively tough to germinate and will necessitate some extra measures. It enjoys full sun but tolerates moderate shade; it grows in damp, fertile soil that is well-drained with a pH of around 7. To start your seeds, use sterilized potting soil.

For the garden bed, use compost or a mixture of black soil and peat moss before planting the seeds; properly water the soil, soaking the seeds for 30 minutes before sowing. This has the benefit of softening the outer shell and increasing germination.

5. Elderberry

Elderberry plants are perennial and typically grow as multi-trunked shrubs or small trees. Despite its name, the elderberry tree grows in a shrub-like manner.

It is distinguished by its serrated leaves, which grow in clusters of three to nine on each side of a stem. They are valuable as garden shrubs and woodland plants for their berries, which feed wildlife and are used to make wines, jellies, pies, and medicines. 

Elderberries are frequently mistaken for hogweed, but they differ. Elderberry leaves, unlike giant hogweed, are pinnately branched. A leaf constitutes 5 to 11 oppositely oriented leaflets. Another distinction is that hogweed does not bear berries. Elderberry features blue-black, juicy berries that hang on the branch in clusters.

Flowers and Foliage of Elderberry

– Growing Season

It is recommended to plant your elderberry bush or tree in the autumn (September/October) or early spring (March/April). The plant will grow and develop the most during these times.

Remove the branches of your elderberry before planting it. This will keep the plant’s leaves from losing too much water.

– Specific Needs

Elderberries require moist, well-drained soil with 5.5 to 6.5 pH; these hardy plants may thrive in various conditions. Provide them with full to partial sun. Fill the plant hole with good organic materials before planting, then feed with 10-10-10 fertilizer or compost every year in early spring.

6. Valerian

Valeriana is a hardy herbaceous perennial commonly used in herbal medicine and a beautiful garden plant. Valerian root provides relaxing and soothing qualities when used medicinally.

Valeriana resembles hogweed in appearance because it grows up to 2 meters high but does not grow as tall as a mature hogweed plant.

– Growing Season

Valerian is a resilient plant that can be planted in the autumn or spring and during mild winter spells.

White Valerian Blossoms

Summer planting is possible if plants are watered throughout the first growing season.

– Specific Needs

Valerian has no specific needs. To thrive, it requires a temperate climate. Plant it in partial shade. If you’re growing Valerian in full sunlight, you will need to keep it moist.

Planting in full light is viable in milder climates. Maintain a moderate level of moisture in the soil. Water it frequently during the summer, especially in direct sunlight.

7. Lovage 

Lovage is a perennial herb in the Apiaceae family. This puts it in the same family as other herbs and vegetables, including parsley, cilantro, dill, fennel, carrots, and celery. This ancient herb’s roots, stems, leaves, and seeds are all edible and taste similar to celery but stronger.

The plants are herbaceous perennials, which means they drop back to the ground in the winter and regrow in the spring.

These perennial plants are large, up to 7 feet tall, which makes them resemble hogweed plants. However, the key difference is that flower umbels on the giant hogweed are more spherical (almost like globes), and the stalk is smooth and purple.

Bee on Lovage Flowers

– Growing Season

The most favorite season of lovage to grow is spring; however, it is a hardy perennial that may be planted at any time of year, though fall and spring are the ideal times. 

– Specific Needs

Lovage is easy to grow and maintain. It prefers sun or partial shade and rich, deep, wet soil. Lovage is an abundant self-seeder. Keep some seedlings, but weed out others to keep the plants from suffocating the other plants in the border. In the summer, small plants foster a flush of new growth.

8. Wild Parsnip

Wild parsnip is an invasive, monocarpic perennial plant native to Europe and Asia that germinates from seed, spends the first year or more as a rosette, gradually bolts into a mature plant in the second year or later, blossoms, sets seed, and dies.

The most common places to find wild parsnip are along road and rail rights-of-way. It can also be seen invading pathways, natural areas, pastures, woodland and field edges, waste areas, unmaintained gravel pits, and idle lands.

Yellow Wild Parsnip Flowers

Parsnip belongs to the same genus as giant hogweed and thus has numerous distinguishing characteristics, like umbel-shaped white blooms (umbrella-like clusters). 

– Growing Season

The best time to grow wild parsnips is either spring or fall. 

– Specific Needs

It may thrive in various environments, from dry soils to rainy meadows. It thrives on moist, rich, calcareous, alkaline soils. It can grow in dry, mesic, or moist soils but not in shaded regions.


Hogweed is a commonly found plant that grows up to 15 feet tall in urban areas. Many plants share similar characteristics with hogweed.

These plants, however, belong to a different botanical family or differ from hogweed based on their physical features. Not many of these plants are as tall as mature hogweed. 

Here’s what you should remember about hogweed and its look-alikes:

  • Hogweed is a perennial plant that is a member of the carrot family. 
  • Hogweed can look quite similar to many plants, but they differ mostly in size. 
  • The most common plant to be misidentified as hogweed is cow parsnip. 
  • Angelica species is another commonly confused plant with hogweed. 

We hope you have all the required knowledge regarding hogweed and its look-alikes. You will now be able to differentiate better!


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