Giant Hogweed: a bitter alien?

Giant hogweedI read a fascinating article by Hugh Warwick in today’s Environment Guardian, entitled, ‘Don’t fear the alien invasion – our landscape is defined by foreign plants‘.

Hugh describes being ‘attacked’ by a giant hogweed. Following the altercation with this toxic, ancient specimen, the poor man’s knee broke out into the most dreadful blister and left him needing to seek the services of a skin specialist.

They informed him that the sap of this vociferous botanical specimen is phytophototoxic and when it comes into contact with our delicate frame it affects the skin’s ability to absorb UV and often leaves you with enormous, localised sunburn.

Twenty years on from this clearly memorable experience, the poor man still bears the scar!

If you do come into contact with the sap of the giant hogweed,  your skin will redden initially then begin to itch. Blisters will form and a fierce burning sensation will spread throughout the affected area within around 48 hours.  Even the smallest quantity of sap in the eye area can lead to temporary and in some cases, permanent blindness and hospitalisation may well be necessary.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, the blisters will eventually morph into a black or purplish scar that is likely to be visible for many years.

If you have clumps of this unforgiving plant on your grassland, it is in your best interests (and those of your livestock) to take stringent matters to eradicate it safely and swiftly; we can help and it won’t cost you a scarred arm or a leg either.

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