Trade body warns over dangers of Giant Hogweed in Buckinghamshire

The mix of warm weather and rain has provided good conditions for the weed to take hold this year - Here's how to recognise it

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 2:16 pm

A national trade body has issued a timely reminder across Buckinghamshire of the dangers associated with Giant Hogweed.

Over the years, a number of children, as well as adults, have reported injuries after coming into contact with the invasive weed in the UK.

Now, as the summer holidays take hold, the Property Care Association (PCA), which represents the invasive weed control industry, is urging vigilance to help protect against injury.

Giant Hogweed can grow up to 5m tall, with leaves more than 1m wide

Dr Peter Fitzsimons, technical manager of the PCA’s Invasive Weed Control Group, said: “Giant Hogweed’s sap is extremely toxic to the skin in sunlight, making it a danger to public health.

“Youngsters are more likely to come into contact with the plant during the summertime, and the mix of warm weather and rain has provided good conditions for the weed to take hold this year.

“Giant Hogweed is also spreading across a wider area, meaning that people are more likely to encounter it.

“If anyone comes into contact with any part of the plant, followed by exposure to sunlight, they can sustain severe blistering to the skin and discomfort, and this reaction can recur for many years.”

How to distinguish Giant Hogweed from regular Hogweed

Size: Giant Hogweed really is a gigantic plant. At this time of year (full maturity) the leaves would typically be more than 1m wide and an individual plant might occupy several square metres of ground. But the really defining feature is the flowering spike or ‘umbrella’ which can rise to 5m (common hogweed normally max 2m, usually less)

Leaf shape: Superficially, Giant Hogweed and ‘normal’ Hogweed plants have a similar leaf shape but Giant Hogweed leaves have much deeper indentations and sharper points (jagged appearance). Common hogweed leaves have indentations too but the lobes have a smoother outline.

How hairy?: A Giant Hogweed flowering spike is deeply ridged, has purple blotches or lines and is covered in quite conspicuous sharp hairs, whereas in common hogweed, whilst not hairless, this feature is much less pronounced.

Giant Hogweed can produce up to 30,000 to 50,000 seeds, which can survive in the soil for a number of years. The invasive weed is capable of growing to a height of up to 5m.

The PCA’s Invasive Weed Control Group has produced a Guidance Note on Managing Giant Hogweed, which can be found here.

Dr Fitzsimons added: “The general public, as well as local authorities, statutory agencies and landowners on whose property people can come into contact with the plant, should be aware of the risks and Giant Hogweed needs to be controlled and managed professionally.”

The PCA has a register of specialist contractors and consultants with the expertise to control and manage invasive species such as Giant Hogweed, as well as other plants such as Japanese knotweed. See www.property-care.org