Tweed Forum enlists help of abseiling plant control team to tackle giant hogweed

Specialist contractor Rhys Matthews on the banks of the River Tweed at Coldstream. Picture by Phil Wilkinson.Specialist contractor Rhys Matthews on the banks of the River Tweed at Coldstream. Picture by Phil Wilkinson.
Specialist contractor Rhys Matthews on the banks of the River Tweed at Coldstream. Picture by Phil Wilkinson.
Scottish Borders environmental charity Tweed Forum has enlisted a team of specialist abseilers to help in its efforts to tackle giant hogweed in the river catchment.

The plant resembles a huge cow parsley when mature and can grow up to 16ft tall. It has toxic sap that can cause severe burns and blistering if it comes into contact with the skin.

Tweed Forum’s work has resulted in a vast reduction in the density and abundance of it in the 5,000 km² river catchment, but along with its team of trained volunteers, the organisation still removes thousands of the plants from the catchment each year.

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Giant hogweed often grows in inaccessible locations and requires the help of a specialist team to reach and treat each plant. The abseilers are from infrastructure contractor SAS Rope & Rail.

Tweed Forum’s Invasive Species Project Officer, Emily Iles, said: “The river network is an ideal transportation network for giant hogweed – with each plant able to produce between 20,000-50,000 seeds, which can remain dormant in the soil for many years.

“Despite the challenging nature of this particular plant, our two decades of giant hogweed control have greatly reduced plant numbers on the main stem of the River Tweed.

“Our trained volunteers and contractors do the majority of work tackling the plants, but we do occasionally have to call on specialist help like these abseilers for hard-to-reach areas.”

Tweed Forum’s Invasives Project also works to reduce Himalayan balsam, Japanese knotweed and American skunk cabbage across the catchment.

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