Wake Up Call For Giant Hogweed

Tuesday 14th July 2015

Any Prog Rock fans out there? If so, you may remember a Genesis album called “Nursery Cryme” which featured a song called “The Return of the Giant Hogweed”. Back in the 1970’s, such warnings about Giant hogweed were common. In the intervening 30-odd years these warnings have dwindled away, leaving members of the public unaware of what Giant hogweed is or the dangers it causes.

Japanese knotweed is the invasive plant grabbing the media headlines today, mainly because of its relatively recent impact on the ability of members of the public to sell or re-mortgage their houses. This has led to many sexy, sensationalised and exaggerated headlines that many can get behind because it hits people where it really hurts – in their wallet.(p>

In health terms though, Japanese knotweed is harmless, and as such can be deemed ‘Britain’s most inconvenient plant’. By contrast, Giant hogweed is a strong contender for the title of ‘Britain’s most dangerous plant’. Similar in basic appearance to other less harmful members of the parsley family (such as Cow parsley, Wild angelica, Hemlock, Sweet cicely and standard Hogweed), what sets Giant hogweed apart is the sheer scale. Leaves are huge and the flat umbrella-like flower heads can grow larger than the size of your head.

Any bare skin that comes into contact with the leaves, the stems or the sap will become over-sensitive to ultra-violet light. This means that any workers clearing Giant hogweed without proper protection will find large watery blisters and burns developing on the affected areas 15-20 hours following contact. These areas can remain UV-sensitive for years – or even life – meaning that any victims of Giant hogweed will need to limit their exposure to the sun in the future if they do not want the painful burns to reoccur. If any of the sap gets into the eyes (and it can be transferred from the hands to the face by simple touch) then temporary blindness can occur. In some extreme cases, permanent blindness can result. At the point of contact, the harmful elements of Giant hogweed do not cause any irritation, so it is only hours afterwards that the true extent becomes evident. By this time, the affected person has already absorbed several hours of UV and it is too late to do anything about it.

Whilst not as widespread as Japanese knotweed, Giant hogweed is present in sufficient quantities around the UK to cause a significant danger to health. In the last week, stories have broken in the media of two young teenage boys in Bolton, five children in Manchester and a ten-year old girl near Loch Lomond all being seriously affected by burns and blisters after coming into contact with Giant hogweed. As well as the pronounced effect in can have on the victims, allowing Giant hogweed to flourish in public access land is simply a lawsuit waiting to happen.

If you come across any Giant hogweed do not touch it. Inform the landowner and encourage them to employ a specialist who can eradicate it. If you do come into contact with Giant hogweed, wash the affected parts as quickly as possible and seek medical assistance.

Please contact Jim Glaister jim@jkweed.co.uk for more information about Giant hogweed.

With staff covering all of England & Wales, speak to the professional Japanese knotweed Company about your knotweed problems, contact us on 01327 340770 or 01962 886060 or email us on enquiries@jkweed.co.uk