Giant Hogweed represents a potentially very serious health risk to humans and animals. The sap present in the plant causes burns and blistering to skin, ongoing issues of skin being photo-sensitive for several years and temporary or permanent blindness if the sap is in contact with your eyes
On contact the sap is released from broken stems or the bristles/ hairs growing on the stem and leaves. Simply brushing past a plant with your bare skin could be sufficient to cause problems. The sap contains substances called furocoumarins which “burn”. The severe irritation which results in photosensitivity, (fully described as Phytophotodermatitis) this will make the affected area extremely painful, with blistering occurring 24-48 hours after exposure and will probably result in dense pigmentation (purple scars). The effects of the photosensitivity may persist for years afterwards causing exposure to sunlight to be very painful. The scars can be extremely disfiguring and take months to heal and fade.
The furocoumarin substances are actually present in the sap of all members of the hogweed family but in much smaller quantities, sufficient to cause irritation rather than the severe effects of exposure to Giant Hogweed sap.
Along with the physical affects to humans there is the overriding effect on the landscape. The potential for a mature plant to dump fifty thousand seeds and the speed it grows at has given the plant a huge advantage over our indigenous species by colonizing huge areas and restricting the growth of other plant life.
Add to that the cost of removal. The difference in the effort, risk and cost between treating one or two immature plants and a large stand of mature Hogweed are considerable. It is clear to see why inaction isn’t going to remain a viable response for very long.
The legalities of having Giant Hogweed on your land are-
- It’s not illegal to have Giant Hogweed present on your land.
- If you allow the Giant Hogweed to spread to neighbouring land, then the owners of that land can bring legal action against you;
- It is also considered an offence to allow the plant to spread into the wild.
Everything you wanted to know about Giant Hogweed but were too afraid to ask
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