Invasive hogweed continues spread in Southeastern Estonia

Sosnowsky's hogweed (Heracleum sosnowskyi) growing in Estonia.
Sosnowsky's hogweed (Heracleum sosnowskyi) growing in Estonia. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

Environmental officials and landowners alike are concerned by the rapid spread of hogweed in Võru County, which is being bolstered by neighboring Russia's unwillingness to combat its growth.

Each year, the Environmental Board is notified of locations where hogweed has been discovered growing in the wild so that regional officials can remove them. The agency receives the most reports from Harju County, Ida-Viru County and Southeastern Estonia — primarily Võru County, Käthlin Rillo, chief specialist at the Environmental Board's Nature Conservation Bureau told ERR.

"The Southeastern Estonian region, the region near the border, is due to the fact that neighboring countries aren't fighting [growth] as diligently," Rillo said. "Hogweed is spreading to us from there. As far as I know, hogweed isn't controlled at all in Russia. The Latvians have started dealing with it in recent years, but you can still see differences on the border specifically with the Russian side. While the Estonian side is diligently fighting [the spread of hogweed], a prime example is the 'sea of hogweed' you can see growing on the other side of the Narva River. That's where it keeps vigorously coming from."

Mati Kivistik, the owner of Kõivsaare Farm in the village of Uue-Saaluse, said that he's managed to get significant colonies of hogweed under control.

"We've gotten hogweed under control in Uue-Saaluse," Kivistik said. "But it can't be said that it's been eradicated; it's fairly sturdy, and will probably be around for years, but by now there are no such major colonies of it anymore. Rather, it's sparsely distributed around surrounding properties as well as my property.

Sosnowsky's hogweed (Heracleum sosnowskyi) growing near an abandoned barn in Estonia. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

According to the Environmental Board official, property owners are free to dig up hogweed themselves as well.

"We very much welcome contributions from property owners and those interested in nature letting us know if they spot any individual plants growing along the side of roads or fields," Rillo said.

"If they're individual specimens, then people can do a perfectly good job of digging them up themselves," she continued. "Of course, you have to protect your skin and wear goggles and a mask. But they can indeed be dug up."

She added that people digging up hogweed plants themselves also benefits environmental officials' response capacity as well, since the board receives a lot of reports of hogweed during the season.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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