Giant Hogweed is a weed which contains toxic sap that can cause severe burns and other life changing injuries.
These alien looking plants can grow up to a whopping 5 metres tall and can have leaves measuring up to around 30cm.
The Giant Hogweed is an incredibly invasive weed which spreads quickly across the landscape and it can often be found in areas such as river banks, scrub land and along the edges of fields but it can just as easily pop up in your garden should the conditions be favourable.
The plant is thought to have been originally imported into Britain during the late 19th century as a ornamental flower. Due to it’s toxicity, Giant hogweed is listed under Schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Country- side Act 1981 with respect to England, Wales and Scotland and as such it is actually an offence to plant or otherwise cause this species to grow in the wild. Interestingly, under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, giant hogweed is also classified as controlled waste.
You can learn more about the plant and it’s features by reading this data sheet provided by the NNSS – Giant Hogweed information sheet
What makes Giant Hogweed so dangerous?
The plant’s sap contains a family of extremely toxic chemicals known as photosensitizing furanocoumarins. When these toxins come into contact with the skin they cause severe reddening of the skin especially when exposed to sunlight.
In most cases, within 48 hours of the sap coming in contact with the skin’s surface, this reddening often develops into severe burning and blistering of the skin.
The damage to your skin can last for several months but it can flare up again after the effects have initially subsided for many years especially when the area is exposed to sunlight.
If that doesn’t sound bad enough, blindness can also occur if the sap gets into a person’s eye.
What should I do if accidentally touch Giant Hogweed?
The NHS advises that you wash the affected area with cold water immediately and get out of the sun as a reaction can begin as little as 15 minutes after contact. Apply sunscreen / sunblock to the affected areas since this can assist in preventing further reactions if you are out walking when it happens. Seek out professional medical advice as soon as possible.
If the sap gets into the eyes, rinse them thoroughly with water immediately and put on sunglasses and again seek medical advice as soon as possible.
What should I do if I spot Giant Hogweed in Fife?
If you spot Giant Hogweed while walking through Fife, take a note of it’s location and if possible take a photo of it and then call Fife Council on Tel: 03451 551166. The council have trained staff who can properly destroy the plant safely. You can also visit the Fife Council website at www.fifedirect.org.uk for more information on reporting Giant Hogweed.
If you find Giant Hogweed while walking the Fife Coastal Path, the Lomond Hill Regional Park or any of the nature reserves that the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust (FCCT) manage then please contact the team at the FCCT on Tel: 01592 656080 or contact them through their website at www.fifecoastandcountrysidetrust.co.uk