So why the chopping? Heracleum mantegazzianum has an ugly side. Let's call that side hogweed. Hogweed is considered a noxious weed. It's invasive. Destructive. Non-native. Learn about the perils of hogweed here, and other facts about hogweed here.
The planting in this particular location makes many stakeholders nervous. Across the street, this path leads to a creek that leads to the National Zoo. Because hogweed loves to grow in semi-shade, moist and rich soil, seeds that drift into the creek are very bad news. As I drove to the location, I passed a group of kids on a walking field trip. I'm sure they noticed the ridiculously large and gorgeous flowers. Must have been a wonderful walk. Oh, but did I mention that the sap of hogweed can cause reddish-black, painful, burning blisters? Yep. The sap increases the skin's sensitivity to light and can cause the blistering. Hope the kids didn't decide to bring a bouquet to the teacher!
Unfortunately, what makes controlling the situation complicated is the number of players involved. An embassy sits on the top of the hill. The hogweed is growing on embassy property, but is on State Department land. Factors that keep the control of hogweed a struggle may have to do with ownership (of the land and the problem), the best method to control the plant, who will provide the labor, and more than likely (since they impact everything else!) - money and politics. Much of it is probably taken for granted by most people not directly involved, but I can tell you this...on this sunny day in June, the Annual Chopping of the Hogweed occurred.
Two watchdogs of the hogweed: buddies Dr. Alan Tasker, the National Noxious Weed Manager for USDA/APHIS, and Sandy Farber-Bandier, Extension Agent, UDC.
Above: the aptly named "Giant Hogweed". Alan at the left calling for reinforcements
Coming up with a game plan...
Because the sap of these plants can lead to painful blisters and burning, it's important to wear long sleeves and gloves. Below, gathering supplies - loppers and plastic gloves.