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Warning over Britain’s most dangerous plant following sightings of Giant Hogweed in East Midlands

todayJune 11, 2022

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Britain’s most dangerous plant has been popping up in more and more places throughout the UK, and now it’s cropped up in the East Midlands. Sightings of Giant Hogweed, which experts say has the potential to cause blindness, have now been reported in Derbyshire.

It looks like harmless cow parsley but can be identified by the fact it grows much taller, as high as 20 feet (five metres). While it doesn’t need to be reported to the authorities the same way as knotweed, its danger to humans has led a series of experts, including those at WhatShed, to create maps to track where it is growing.

Derbyshire is among the affected areas, with people now being warned of the dangers of Giant Hogweed, but what is it and why is it so dangerous?

What is giant hogweed?

Formally known as Heracleum mantegazzianum, Giant Hogweed is part of the Apiaceae family, one which includes plants such as parsley, carrot, parsnip, cumin and coriander. However, unlike those household favourites, Giant Hogweed is an invasive plant that grows and grows and grows, reports DerbyshireLive.

Originally introduced to the UK in the 19th century from the Eurasia region, experts at WhatShed say each Giant Hogweed plant can spread out to cover a range of around two metres, making it highly invasive.

The sap is one of the most notable parts of the plant, with its thick green stem having patches of purple and white hairs on it. With thick green leaves that can grow to five feet in width, Giant Hogweeds really live up to their name.

Why is it dangerous?

While it’s an invasive plant, it’s not this that makes Giant Hogweed the “most dangerous plant in Britain” according to WhatShed and others – it’s what it can do to people. The risk is very real apparently and people need to be aware of the plant’s hairy sap as this is where the danger lies.

Containing furocoumarins – organic toxic chemical compounds – they can cause major irritation to people’s skin as the toxins seep deep into the cells of a person, reports Leicestershire Live.

What are the side effects?

Due to the bristling nature of the sap and its hairs, it’s easy for people to brush up against Giant Hogweed without realising. If they do, the sap’s toxins could cause both burns and scars to people’s skin.

In the short-term, someone who comes up against giant hogweed may suffer from the likes of blisters and rashes as well as painful inflamed areas. However, the long-term consequences are more dramatic with people facing potential disfiguration or long-lasting purple blotches on their skin. Those worst affected could even suffer with skin irritation for months or years after the plant made contact with them.

Anyone who thinks that Giant Hogweed only affects humans will need to think again as it has been noted that the plant has caused similar side effects on dogs, too, so people are urged to be careful when out for a walk with their pet pooch.

Can Giant Hogweed kill?

The answer here is unlikely, but people should still be careful. While the risks are highs in terms of side effects, they have not led to death.

However, they can lead to long-term pain, with the sap especially dangerous as that can leave someone permanently blind if it makes contact with someone’s eyes. Most people who do come into contact with giant hogweed require hospitalisation, meaning it cannot be taken lightly if a blister or rash appears following contact.

Where is giant hogweed found?

Giant hogweed is found in several parts of Derbyshire, including around Chesterfield and Bakewell and just off the Monsal Trail near Miller’s Dale, according to WhatShed. A sighting has also been reported near East Midlands Airport, Leicestershire.

What do you do if you find Giant Hogweed?

The first rule for anyone who finds Giant Hogweed is to keep their distance as only the slightest touch can cause painful burns and blisters. However, if someone has come into contact with it, young, old or pet, they should wash the affected area as quickly as possible and seek medical advice. Experts also advise trying to get indoors and away from direct sunlight as quickly as possible to reduce the risk of burning.

Although there is no statutory obligation for landowners to eliminate Giant Hogweed, local authorities will often take action to remove infestations in public areas. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) lists it on Schedule 9, Section 14 meaning it is an offence to cause Giant Hogweed to grow in the wild in England and Wales (similar legislation applies in Scotland and Northern Ireland).

Also it can be the subject of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders where occupiers of giant hogweed infested ground can be required to remove the weed or face penalties. Local Authorities have powers under certain circumstances to require Giant Hogweed to be removed. More information about giant hogweed can be found online.

Written by: thehitnetwork

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