Heracleum sosnowskyi is up to 3–5 meters in height, with a straight, firm stem that can reach a diameter of 12 cm. The leaves are 50–60 cm long. The root is very firm, up to 30 cm diameter. The inflorescence is a big umbel found at the end of every stem. It blooms during July through September and produces thousands of seeds. They are easily distributed by the wind but especially by the water.
All parts of Heracleum sosnowskyi contain the intense toxic allergenfuranocoumarin. It is dangerous for humans because even small drops of plant's juice cause photosensitivity and burns. The plant is less dangerous for animals that have thick hair to protect them from the sun. In Russia, Heracleum sosnowskyi once was used as a silage plant, and sometimes as a shield-hedge along the roads, preventing farm animals from escaping and wild animals from getting in. Flowers are largely visited by flies and beetles; bees do not appear to favor its nectar.
The plant was once common only in the Caucusas area, however due to a decision to use it as a silage plant it quickly spread in many areas of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. This decision was made in 1947, under Stalin's rule, so later, when the species proved to be highly invasive and difficult to remove, people started to call it "Stalin's revenge". It is unclear however, how widespread this naming was before the media picked it up as a catchy name. It could be possible that this name was in fact coined by the Russian media in the end of the 90s or the early 2000s, but since then it has become pretty common in the news. It is also commonly known as Borschevik.
Heracleum sosnowskyi is a highly invasive plant in the Baltic States, Poland and Belarus. Many river valleys and roadsides are occupied by large stands of this weed. It is difficult to eradicate because the seeds remain viable for many years and the roots are difficult to remove. Herbicides are widely used in a fight against Heracleum sosnowskyi but plant can later resprout from the roots.
Damaged hand due to physical contact with the plant.
Protective water-resistant clothing and protective glasses or goggles must be worn by the personnel when cutting the plant due to the risk of skin contact with splashes of the toxic sap and sap coated fragments of the plant A respirator is also heavily advised.