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Heracleum sphondylium reaches on average 50–120 centimetres (20–47 in) of height, with a maximum of 2 metres (6 ft 7 in). From large reddish rhizomatous roots rises a striated, hollow stem with bristly hairs. The leaves can reach 50 centimetres (20 in) of length. They are pinnate, hairy and serrated, divided into 3-5 lobed segments.

This plant has pinkish or white flowers with 5 petals. They are arranged in large umbels of up to 20 cm of diameter with 15 to 30 rays. The peripheral flowers have a radial symmetry. Flowering typically occurs between June and October. The flowers are pollinated by insects (usually bees, wasps and flies) The small fruits are flattened and winged, elliptical to rounded and glabrous, up to 1 cm long. The seed dispersal is by wind (anemochory).

Heracleum sphondylium is smaller in size than the skin irritating Heracleum mantegazzianum (Giant Hogweed).

The genus name Heracleum derives from the Greek "herákleion" and refers to the mythologic hero Heracles, while the species name sphondylium, meaning "vertebrae", refers to the shape of the segmented stem.

I have both the white form and a purple form which seems to be more perennial. the deep purple stems and large leaves make a great scultural element in the border, but these plants do seed around evrywhere, so best to cut the seed heads off before they drop.

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