Warnings over the potential dangers of giant toxic weed

Lucy Wright pictured with suspected giant hogweed.
Lucy Wright pictured with suspected giant hogweed.

Residents in the area are being warned about the potential dangers of giant hogweed, after a mother from Barmby Moor stumbled across what she believed to be large specimens of the toxic and invasive plant.

Lucy Wright, 45, was walking with her husband Paul, her 15-year-old daughter Gabby and their dog Millie along the River Derwent at Stamford Bridge when she spotted what looked like giant hogweed.

The plant has been in the news recently after two boys in Bolton were hospitalised with burns injuries after touching the plant, while in Scotland a 10 year-old girl was left with horrible burn marks after picking up a piece of the plant near Loch Lomond.

Lucy, a domestic assistant at Pocklington School, said: “I posted a warning on local Pocklington Facebook sites and someone commented that there is a notice about the plants on the door of the chemists in Stamford Bridge. However we didn’t go in the chemists, we just parked in the car park near the bridge and set off to walk our dog. We didn’t see any warnings on the gates or in the car park. We just noticed the plants because they are so big.

“I remembered my daughter Annabel asking me if I’d seen the plants on the news as she was concerned we could come across some. Otherwise I wouldn’t have had any idea about the dangers of the plants.

“They are quite striking to look at and I can imagine people being tempted to take the dried out ones home to make a display, my mother even commented that she probably would have done just that.

“I can’t be sure it’s a giant hogweed but I think it probably is.”

Environment Agency officer, Andrew Virtue, said: “Giant hogweed can spread rapidly along watercourses forming dense colonies that suppress the growth of native plants and grasses. It can also pose a public health risk to those who come into direct contact with it.

“We would therefore urge landowners to treat this plant if it’s found on their land, thereby helping to prevent its spread.

“The public can find advice on this and other invasive non-native species at the www.gov.uk website and can help by reporting the spread of invasive plants through the plant tracker app.”

Giant hogweed was introduced into Britain from southern Russia in the 19th century.

It has spread throughout Britain but is fortunately much rarer in the East Riding than in some other parts of the country.

The sap causes burns to the skin when it is exposed to sunlight. These can be severe and require hospital treatment. The burns can be long lasting and leave the skin sensitive to sunlight for many years. If the sap gets into the eyes it can cause blindness. It is therefore very important not to touch any part of the plant.

Giant hogweed is a very large plant which grows to two to four meters tall. It has distinctive purple blotches on the stem which also has sharp bristles. It has small white flowers clustered in large umbrella shaped flower heads which are 30 to 60 cm across.

It is sometimes confused with the native hogweed which is very common. The native hogweed is smaller although it can grow to two meters tall. It does not have purple blotches on the stem and has smaller flower head, less than 15cm across. It is not poisonous but may cause some minor skin irritation so contact with bare skin should be avoided.

If you find giant hogweed, report it to East Riding Council and send a photograph to help confirm 
identification.