If we’re being pedantic, it isn’t actually the plant that burns, but the sap from giant hogweed is phototoxic. That means if it comes into contact with skin, your skin will becomes incredibly sensitive to sunlight (even in cloudy conditions), which can lead to potentially serious burns.
Last year there were a handful of sightings of giant hogweed around Huddersfield, so it’s wise to be on the lookout.
Simon Hirst our River Steward, explains why:
“The sap, which is found in the plant’s leaves, spiny stem, flowers and seeds, makes skin extremely sensitive to sunlight, resulting in potentially severe burns and sometimes permanent scarring. It can be particularly dangerous if it gets into your eyes, in extreme cases causing blindness.”
If you think you’ve spotted giant hogweed, call the River Holme Connections office on 01484 661756 and give the location, or report it via the Plant Tracker app. Never try to touch or remove the plant without proper protective clothing.
“We want to stop giant hogweed from spreading throughout the Colne and Holme Valleys. As the seeds can lay dormant for up to eight years, it’s really important that we treat any cases of giant hogweed before they flower and set seed,” said Simon.
How to spot giant hogweed
Giant hogweed is a member of the carrot family and relative of cow parsley. It has a thick bristly stem and forms a rosette of jagged, lobed leaves in the first year before sending up a flower spike in the second year.
It can grow to up to 5m tall and has white flowers held in umbels, like the flat topped clusters of cow parsley.
Originally introduced into this country more than 100 years ago as an ornamental plant, giant hogweed escaped the landscaped gardens it was intended for and is now colonising roadsides, riverbanks and other wild areas. It’s considered a non-native, invasive species due to its toxic properties that can harm pets and wildlife, as well as people.
What to do if you come into contact with giant hogweed
If the sap comes into contact with your skin, wash immediately with cold water and keep the affected area covered and out of the sun for 48-hours. If you have a reaction or the sap gets into your eyes, seek immediate medical help.
If you think you’ve spotted giant hogweed, please get in touch.