A recent incident reported on the 12th June 2016 by the Hull Daily Mail involving the agonising blisters suffered by a child after coming into contact with a giant hogweed plant again highlights the dangers of these plants.
Added to this was a case last year involving a similar incident at a holiday park in Wales which resulted in the landowner being taken to court, which reinforces not only the dangers of this plant but liability considerations to Property and Land Owners.
Described as “the UK’s most dangerous plant” by a rivers and estuaries expert, giant hogweed is an invasive species closely related to cow parsley which is most commonly found near rivers and canals.
The problem arises from toxic sap, containing chemicals known as furanocoumarins, which can be emitted by the white flowering weed from its leaves, stems, roots, flowers and seeds.
This increases the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, often resulting in burns that can last for several months. Some people have reported that the affected area of skin remains sensitive to light for some years afterwards. Blindness, too, can result if the sap comes in contact with the eyes.
Giant hogweed, which can grow up to six metres high, was brought to Britain in the 19th Century as an ornamental species. Its white umbrella-shaped flower head has leaves of up to 1.5 metres wide.
With an ability to produce up to 50,000 seeds a year, the weed is a regular presence throughout the UK and is especially evident in the summer months though it remains a health threat all year round. The Welsh holiday park case is only one of a recent spate of incidents involving individuals, typically children, being severely affected by the plant.