Giant Hogweed grows up to 16ft tall and has densely packed white flowers, and may look pretty from a distance.
But the plant has been called the ‘most dangerous in Britain’, thanks to its ability to cause serious burns and blisters when touched.
A teenager had a blister the size of an orange and struggled to dress herself after a moment of contact with the giant hogweed.
But would you recognize the plant and be able to distinguish it from more harmless species such as cow parsley?
Here’s everything you need to know about giant hogweed – including how to recognize it and how to get rid of it.
Giant Hogweed grows up to 16ft tall and has densely packed white flowers, and may look inviting from a distance. But the plant has been called the ‘most dangerous in Britain’, thanks to its ability to cause severe burns and blisters if touched.
A teenager had a blister the size of an orange and struggled to dress herself after a moment of contact with giant hogweed
What is Hogweed?
Giant hogweed is an invasive species not native to the UK and often confused with cow parsley.
Reginald Knight, Head Gardener at Fife Zootold MailOnline it was originally introduced to ornamental gardens in the UK and is “known for its umbrella formations of white flowers and large leaves.”
Seeds from the plant are dispersed in the wind, so giant hogweed can now be found all over the UK.
The plant can often be found near rivers, but also near hedges or along roadsides.
How do I recognize hogweed?
Although the plant looks very similar to common hogweed, it is much taller, often reaching heights of over 16 feet.
Sharing tips on how to differentiate between the two plants, Mr Knight said the plant has ‘long stems topped with umbrella-like racemes of densely packed white flowers’.
“The large stems are covered in tiny white hairs and there are purple spots scattered randomly up the stem, with each branch tending to have a purple spot where it meets the stem,” he said.
Seeds from the plant are dispersed in the wind, so giant hogweed can now be found all over the UK
Giant hogweed is an invasive species not native to the UK and often confused with cow parsley (pictured)
What are the dangers of hogweed?
Giant hogweed is poisonous and especially the sap is dangerous, a teenager discovered this week.
Ross McPherson believes he may have cycled past the dreaded giant hogweed while cycling near his home in Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland.
A few hours later, he noticed his hand turning red and soon after burst into painful blisters that required hospital treatment.
The blisters then had to be removed without anesthesia, with the 16-year-old in so much pain that he passed out.
“I was riding my bike and I must have just driven past it,” said Ross. “It would have been seconds.
“When I first noticed it, my hand was just red and a little sore. I didn’t know what it was. It felt warm.’
He noticed his hand turn red and soon after burst into painful blisters that required hospital treatment
What to do if you come into contact with hogweed
Mr Knight told MailOnline that when the sap comes into contact with human skin, a chemical ‘stops your skin from protecting itself from the sun, giving you an incredibly serious case of sunburn’.
Gardeners should wear protection when handling or getting close to the plant to ensure the sap does not come in contact with the skin.
If you have accidentally come into contact with giant hogweed, wash the skin immediately with soap and water.
If there is blistering or contact with eyes, seek medical attention immediately.
How do I get rid of it?
Chemicals such as glyphosate and triclopyr could wipe out the invasive plant, but Mr Knight said his team at Fife Zoo avoids this method because of the environmental impact on local wildlife.
Mr Knight said: ‘Organic methods such as pruning the plant to the point it emerges from the ground or mowing it will kill the plant but it is essential to wear proper protection to ensure that the sap of the plant does not come into contact with your skin or eyes.’
He added that the dead plant is still extremely harmful and is considered a controlled waste product.
Mr Knight advised that anyone disposing of the plant should check that their local landfill will accept it.
He said, ‘The best way to remove the dead plant is to compost it. If you can’t compost the plant, you may need to burn it to keep the seeds and detritus from spreading and the plants from regrowing.”