NatureScot and COBIS (Care of Burns in Scotland) have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers posed by giant hogweed.
Giant hogweed sap contains a toxic chemical, which sensitises the skin to sunlight and causes severe blisters, resulting in burns which can be serious and long lasting. Every year gardeners, walkers, children and animals are hurt by the plant.
Although giant hogweed is not native to Scotland, it is widespread across central and eastern parts of the country, commonly found along river banks, on waste ground and beside roads and train tracks.
NatureScot’s Invasive Species Policy Manager Stan Whitaker said: “It’s really important for people to be able to recognise giant hogweed so they can avoid potentially serious injury.
“Thankfully the plant is relatively easy to identify when fully grown due to its enormous size of between two and four metres tall, with large white clusters of flowers up to 80 centimetres wide.”
As well as being a health risk to people and animals, giant hogweed is also a risk to the environment because it forms dense patches which crowd out our native plants. Anyone who spots giant hogweed growing on amenity land, such as parks, playing fields, footpaths or road verges, should report it to the local authority.
As part of the campaign a downloadable warning poster has been created that can be shared with affected communities and even displayed in front of any patches of the dangerous plant.
If you do come into contact with giant hogweed you should:
- Cover the affected area and wash it with soap and water soon as possible following contact.
- Keep the area away from sunlight for at least 48 hours (this includes sunlight on dull, overcast days).
- If you feel unwell after contact with giant hogweed, speak to your doctor.
- Protect the sensitive areas with sun-screen in the following months.
Find out more about the campaign on the NatureScot website