Giant hogweed is a large invasive weed which originates from Central Asia. In the 19th century it was brought over to Britain as a decorative plant with little thought given to how it would integrate into UK ecosystems - just like the more infamous Japanese Knotweed.
Unlike Japanese knotweed the main problem with giant hogweed is not the risk it poses to properties, but rather the risk it poses to property owners, their families and pets. Giant hogweed can cause burns on the skin of anyone who comes into contact with its toxic sap, potentially leading to significant injury.
Do you know the facts concerning this hazardous invasive weed?
Giant hogweed burns can first appear as a rash or bad blistering. Injuries can become particularly aggravated in the spring and summer months as the chemicals in the toxic hogweed sap react to sunlight. Skin affected by hogweed burns can react badly to sunlight for years after the initial incident.
How to identify Giant Hogweed
Given the aggressive nature of giant hogweed sap, it is obviously important to know about giant hogweed identification.
As the name suggests, giant hogweed can grow to vast heights, reaching anywhere between 2 and 5 metres tall even stretching up to 7m. It resembles the much smaller common hogweed, having a dark red or purple stem and spotted leaf stalks which are hollow and produce sturdy bristles. Giant hogweed also produces pretty white flowers in flat-topped clusters, with a maximum diameter of 60cm.
Giant hogweed and the Law
The Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) states that it is an offence to introduce giant hogweed to the wild. Although it is permitted to have giant hogweed on your own land, you cannot allow its spread to neighbouring land, and any landowner who suspects you are responsible for giant hogweed on their land can pursue legal action against you.
Giant Hogweed removal
Simply pulling up giant hogweed isn’t enough; the extensive root system will also have to be removed otherwise the plant will regrow - and that is where expert help is advised, not least to ensure the proper and legal disposal of the excavated hogweed.
Giant hogweed removal methods typically include the deep excavation of the weed or treating the plant and surrounding soil with a powerful weed killer.
Of course, gloves and facemasks should always be worn when working with giant hogweed. Obviously washing hands and any clothing, tools etc, which come into contact with the contaminated weed should help reduce the occurrence of giant hogweed burns.