What is Giant Hogweed?
Giant Hogweed is a very tall plant which displays large, white, umbrella-like clusters of flowers from June to July. Its hollow stem is ridged and purple-spotted, and its leaves are large and divided.
It has been called the UK’s most dangerous plant due to the irritants in the plant that cause the skin to redden and blister. At this time of year, the plant is at is most toxic. Many people will develop blisters as a result of touching the plant’s sap.
After contact with the plant, the burns can last for several months and the skin can remain sensitive to light for many years.
The NHS says anyone who touches giant hogweed should wash the affected area with soap and water, and keep it covered.
Recent article in the Daily Mail:
The History of Giant Hogweed
Giant hogweed was brought to the UK from Central Asia in 1893. It was introduced by the Victorians as an ornamental plant for lakesides and gardens but it wasn’t until the 1970s when this alien species gained notoriety.
What LLFT are doing to help eradicate Giant Hogweed
(and other Invasive Non-Native Species)?
Giant Hogweed is a common weed which grows by many rivers and canals. This makes it a massive problem to river systems, so with welcome grants from SNH, the LLFT make great efforts each year to control giant hogweed in “hotspots” throughout the river system. Controlling invasive non-native species is one of the core activities of LLFT, with the grants received enabling us to control a limited area in our river systems.
Giant hogweed can be controlled with herbicide, but due to the dangers of the plant, this has to be done in a controlled setting by trained volunteers. All volunteers are required to wear protective clothing, and procedures are in place should anyone make contact with the plant. In addition, washing equipment and clothing after spraying is important too.
Some of the invasive plant species, namely Giant hogweed and Japanese knotweed have started to emerge which means we can begin spraying as of next week.
As many of you will know, this project was commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage in 2012 to deal with infestations of Giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam within the Endrick and Blane Water catchment areas. All three species are widely distributed throughout both catchments and often cover very large areas. Not only do these plants threaten the local environment by outcompeting and excluding native plants but Giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam go through a winter die back leaving our river banks open to erosion. Furthermore, they reduce the amenity of our catchment by limiting local access for a number of leisure and sporting activities.
Unfortunately there is no easy fix to the INNS problem and managing them is a long term process that requires a great deal of LLFT staff and volunteer dedication. With this in mind, I am asking for your help as the trust are looking for volunteers who can come out and help us control these invasive plants. The trust have a number of different approaches we use to control INNS however we primarily use herbicide to stunt the growth of the plants or physically remove the entire plant from the ground, in the case of Himalayan balsam.
No experience is necessary as we provide all the training and information required. It is our hope that the project will not only rid the catchment of these INNS but present volunteers with an opportunity to learn new skills, meet new people and see the catchment in a new light.