Sosnowsky’s hogweed is an example how expansive and dangerous alien species can be. It was introduced to Poland as a fodder plant in the mid-20th century, but its cultivation has not brought desired results. Moreover, many cases of severe burns have been reported in animals and humans after having contact with Sosnowsky’s hogweed.


Biological characteristics determining the invasiveness of this species include its size (in Poland it can grow up to 4 meters), fast germination, growth and production of numerous seeds (one plant may produce about 30,000 seeds annually). For this reason, Sosnowsky’s hogweed wins a competitive fight for habitat resources. It continues to fill in the niches of our native species consequently, and eventually degrades valuable natural habitats. It is a close relative to the giant hogweed which is more common in Europe.


Sosnowsky’s hogweed contains furanocoumarins in the stem and leaf tissues, which cause human and animal skin become oversensitive to UV rays. As a result the skin is covered with burns, blisters and slow-healing wounds and even scars. Symptoms appear after several dozen of minutes since having the contact with Sosnowsky’s hogweed (sometimes up to 48 hours).


The number of Sosnowsky’s hogweed stands in Poland increases from year to year. This plant has great regeneration and reproduction abilities. It is resistant to many herbicides. Moreover, it produces a great number of seeds which are able to sprout for two or more years! All of this makes combating this species very difficult, and it requires systematic actions to be carried out for several growing seasons. Very goods effects of eradicating single plant or small populations are obtained by cutting a root with a sharp spade.


How to deal with Sosnowsky’s hogweed?


  1. Specialists recommend avoiding areas with the high concentration of Sosnowsky’s hogweeds. However, if we want to get rid of a single plant from our garden or plot by ourselves, than we should take special care, wear proper clothes and protect eyes and the respiratory tract.
  2. You are invited to read a publication entitled: „Wytyczne dotyczące zwalczania barszczu Sosnowskiego (Heracleum sosnowskyi) i barszczu Mantegazziego (Heracleum mantegazzianum) na terenie Polski”. You will find there an overview of Sosnowsky’s hogweed controlling methods and funding opportunities to finance the eradication of this species. There is also information on biology and its impact on the natural environment and the human and animal health.
  3. A map with giant hogweed stands in Poland is published on a website: ; e.g. a map with giant hogweed’s areas in Poland. You can check there where the plant grows and report yourself new stands of giant hogweed.



In the coming days, most of us will set off on a further or closer journey, enjoying a long weekend. There is no need to convince anyone about the advantages of travelling, since we all know – travelling educates. Unfortunately, we often leave behind piles of trash and trampled trails in the places we have visited. During holidays, we are not interested in environmental impact of our visit, and the priority is to have a nice time. When planning a trip, it is worth considering how to travel so that we will not destroy anything of what we are going to see.


How to travel responsibly? A few rules are listed below which should be kept in mind before and during the trip:


  1. Choose ecological means of transport. At short distances, it is worth choosing a train or a car instead of a plane. Flying is very harmful to the environment – one flight on a European route causes more pollution than driving a car every day for a year!


Obviously, driving a car is a mid-way solution. An old car can consume plenty of fuel and emit a lot of exhaust fumes. Additionally, driving alone is not ecological – in such a situation, it is worth thinking about taking additional passengers (within the so-called carpooling or car sharing). Shared journey will also contribute to additional savings.


  1. Before booking accommodation, find out whether the selected hotel/hostel cares about the environment. A green certificate, which is awarded to companies that meet certain conditions, may prove helpful. In tourism such certificates are awarded to hotels, campsites and night shelters which aim to reduce their impact on the environment. You may also use applications where people share opinions about a hotel (e.g. TripAdvisor), allowing you to choose accommodation based on an “ecological” criterion.


For example a frequent practice in many hotels is a daily exchange of towels and sheets for fresh ones. Check if it is possible to decline such a service in the hotel that you have chosen – sometimes it is enough just to put the right sign on a door handle or to inform the reception.


Consider taking your own toiletries, so you will not need to use soap and shampoo prepared in small plastic bottles in the hotel. In order to understand the scale of waste generated in this way in the hotel industry, it is enough to multiply the number of plastic bottles by the number of days in a year and the number of hotel rooms around the world!


The rules of responsible travelling also apply to people sleeping outdoors. Remember to pitch a tent at least 600 m from a river bank or lake. Do not build stands for tents, instead try to use places shaped by nature. When preparing meals, use a burner instead of  campfire and wash the dishes away from rivers and lakes. When leaving the camping site, make sure that there is no trash left.


  1. Plan meals on the go and in your whereabouts. When we are unprepared, we buy a lot of unnecessary things and we litter more.


While traveling, it is worth eating locally, tasting the best local products. Remember that food imports mean wasted energy and additional environmental pollution with greenhouse gases.


And instead of buying bottled water, take a thermos or reusable bottle with you, and refill it as often as possible during a trip. In addition, avoid disposable cups, cutlery, plates, napkins and straws!



The Baltic Sea is a natural environment for various seal species. At the end of the 19th century, over 100,000 seals occupied the entire Baltic area. Ice covering a large part of the Baltic Sea, on which seals gave birth and raised their young, was their ally. As the climate was changing, seals gradually retreated to the North. Nowadays they breed on uninhabited, rocky islands of Sweden, Finland and Estonia.


Today, more than 30,000 of grey seals live in the entire Baltic Sea – they represent the largest species of seals, which is still considered as endangered. Grey seals are most common on Polish beaches. There are also ringed seals (over 8,000) in the Baltic, living mainly in the Gulf of Bothnia, and harbour seals (only about 5,000) which inhabit the southern coast of Sweden.


From time to time seals need to get out of water. They usually haul out on land to rest after a strenuous hike or fishing, during moulting and pupping seasons, and also when they get sick. They should not be scared away nor disturbed. These mammals have become frequent guests on the Polish coast. Few guides are given below which should be strictly obeyed (for the sake of both, you and the seals) if you encounter a seal.


If you encounter a seal, remember:


  1. Do not come too close! A seals is a wild animal which can bite severely! Do not take it away from the beach! If it has white fur, its mother may swim nearby. And she will only come back when she feels safe!
  2. Do not chase a seal into the water! Seals are animals which need to live on land as well. That is where they rest, dry their fur, give birth and raise their offspring.
  3. Do not touch or try to catch a seal! Take a good look. If the seal is emaciated, injured or sick (breathing heavily, coughing, has a runny nose), then it will need your help – inform the Marine Station of the University of Gdansk in Hel (contact numbers given below).
  4. Try to ensure that the seal is calm and safe until the employees of the Marine Station arrive. Do not allow people and animals get close to it. Try to make a fence around with a string, tape or sticks, putting them in the sand, a few meters from the place where it lies.
  5. When the employees of the Marine Station arrive, they will examine the seal and assess its health condition. If necessary, they will take it in to the seal centre for further check-up and rehabilitation. After the completed treatment, the seal will be set free.


Have you seen a seal on the beach?


Be sure to call the Marine Station in Hel:

+48 58 675 08 36 or +48 601 88 99 40