Giant hogweed: Interactive map reveals where dangerous plant is growing in Northumberland

A plant dubbed Britain’s “most dangerous” has been spotted growing in parts of Northumberland.

By Amanda Bourn
Monday, 20th June 2022, 9:37 am

Prevalent at this time of year, giant hogweed can cause horrendous blistering burns.

While the toxic flowering plant usually appears near waterways, experts say they are losing a battle to eradicate its presence after homeowners spotted the plant popping up in their parks and gardens.

It might look harmless, but this invasive plant harbours toxic sap on its stems and can be extremely dangerous when it comes into contact with bare skin.

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Giant hogweed is toxic and can cause painful blisters if touches.

In Bolton this week, a primary school girl suffered second-degree burns after touching the plant while playing in a park. And in Cornwall, a man was left unable to walk after feeling like he was "on fire" after coming into contact with the plant.

Experts at WhatShed have created an online map to help the public track where it is growing, with sightings verified by experts before being added to records.

Currently, the map shows there are several giant hogweed hotspots in the county; by the River Wansbeck in Guide Post, Lynemouth, Dunstan and on Holy Island.

Giant hogweed typically grows to a height of around two to five metres. Serious reactions to the skin are caused by 'furocoumarin derivatives' in its stems, leaves, roots and seeds.

Giant hogweed should only be handled by experts.

It can lead to skin inflammation and blisters, with a reaction to the plant happening around 15 minutes after first coming into contact with it.

Children should take extra care, especially when playing outside in overgrown areas. It can easily be mistaken as a harmless plant, so young children can unknowingly pick the flowering heads without realising.

After coming into contact with the plant, the burns can last for several months and the skin can remain sensitive to light for many years.

The NHS advises: “If the sap of the giant hogweed comes into contact with your skin, it can cause severe, painful burns and make your skin sensitive to strong sunlight.

The Whatshed online map pinpoints where giant hogweed has been spotted.

“If you touch the plant, cover the affected area, and wash it with soap and water.

“The blisters heal very slowly and can develop into phytophotodermatitis, a type of skin rash which flares up in sunlight. If you feel unwell after contact with giant hogweed, speak to your doctor.”