Experts issue warning over UK’s ‘most dangerous plant’ that can cause blindness


Scots have been warned of the dangers of giant hogweed which can cause blisters, burns and blindness when touched.

NatureScot and Care of Burns in Scotland Managed Clinical Network (COBIS) is raising awareness on giant hogweed ahead of the school summer holidays as kids are most likely to be exploring the outdoors.

Dubbed the UK’s ‘most dangerous plant’, it’s not actually native to Scotland and is usually found along river banks, on waste ground and beside roads and train tracks.

It contains a toxic chemical that sensitises the skin to sunlight, which can cause severe blistering and burns that can be severe and long lasting.

Officials have issued a warning over giant hogweed ahead of the summer holidays

READ MORE: Giant Hogweed warning in Scotland as toxic plant causing burns is thriving in hot weather

READ MORE: Giant hogweed labeled UK’s most dangerous plant – how to spot it in your garden

Gardeners, walkers, children and animals are hurt by the plant on a yearly basis.

NatureScot’s Invasive Species Policy Manager Stan Whitaker said: “It’s really important for people to be able to recognize giant hogweed so that 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 meters tall, with large white clusters of flowers up to 80cm wide.

“Its leaves are very large and sharply divided and can be over one meter across while the stems are green with purple blotches and covered with bristly hairs.”

Dog walkers have been urged to keep their pets away from the plant, as it is harmful to animals as well as humans.

Anyone who spots giant hogweed growing in parks, playing fields, footpaths or road verges should report it to their local authority immediately.

Eleanor Robertson, Senior Clinical Research Fellow at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde added: “This plant, although impressive to look at, is vest avoided and reported to your local council.

“If you do come into contact with the plant, you must cover the affected area to block sunlight then thoroughly wash the area to remove the sap.

Coming into contact with giant hogweed can causing blistering and burns

“Should redness or blistering occur, you should seek medical help.”

How to recognize giant hogweed

  • Typically two to four meters tall, with large white clusters of flowers up to 80cm across – looking like a giant cow parsley
  • Leaves are very large and sharply divided and can be over one meter across
  • Stems are green with purple blotches and covered with bristly hairs

What you should do if you come into contact with giant hogweed

  • 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 suncream in the following months

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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