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18 July 2017

Giant Hogweed Terrorising the UK as it Thrives in the Warm Weather

The UK has received an unexpected amount of warm weather recently. Yes, it’s because summer is upon us, but it’s not like the sun tends to favour this side of the world, no matter what time of the year it is.

So, that should be a reason to rejoice, right? Not necessarily.

While the recent spate of warm weather may be great for people hoping to top up their tan, it’s also provided a breeding ground for a toxic plant that can leave your skin covered in agonising blisters.

Known as Giant Hogweed, it has been dubbed the most dangerous plant in the UK thanks to its ability to prevent the skin from protecting itself against sunlight. With no defence against the sun’s harmful rays, the skin can erupt into rashes, burns and blisters within 48 hours and take a long time to subside. The blisters in particular heal very slowly because they can damage your DNA, meaning that the blistering can re-occur for a number of years.

Everyone can be affected by the toxic chemicals in the plant, however children are particularly susceptible to some of the more serious effects. This is not helped by the fact that children are less likely to be aware of the dangers of Giant Hogweeds and may touch them unaware that this could have severe consequences.

A number of cases have been reported across the country of such incidents happening, including several in Bristol. Reports of the leaves being mistaken for dock leaves are quite common, with children rubbing them on their skin to try and treat nettle stings and unintentionally causing themselves serious harm.

Things aren’t helped by the fact that Giant Hogweeds look very similar to the innocuous cow parsley, thanks to the presence of white flowers that branch out in an umbrella shape. However, the green stem of the Hogweed is covered in dark red spots which make it easier to identify, along with the fact that the plant can grow as high as five metres tall. The base of the leaf stalk is also covered in coarse white hairs.

With the average temperatures in the UK during the warmer months only likely to increase as climate change progresses, the presence of Giant Hogweed is only going to become more prominent alongside the country’s riverbanks. Right now, all we can do is proceed with caution around these plants and if you do come into contact with them, be sure to wash the area immediately and get in contact with your local GP if you start to have a reaction.

James Darvill

James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. When he’s not staying up late watching the Simpsons he’s beating the world at Mario Kart, always with a glass of wine in hand.