A NATIONAL trade body is urging people in Wales to exercise caution over an invasive weed that can cause injury in the summer months.
The plant sap of Giant hogweed is extremely toxic, making it a danger to public health.
Contact with any part of the invasive, non-native weed, followed by exposure to UV light, including the sun, can cause severe discomfort and blistering to the skin.
Daniel Docking, Technical Manager of the Property Care Association’s Invasive Weed Control Group, says it is important that people are aware of the plant, so they can avoid any problems.
Daniel Docking said: “Each year, we have reports of people who have been injured after inadvertently coming into contact with Giant hogweed.
“Quite often it is children who are affected, while playing outdoors in the summer months.
“Symptoms from exposure can include a rash, itching and blisters where skin comes into contact with it.
“In some cases, the blistering can be so severe that urgent medical attention is required.
“It can also become a long-term condition, reoccurring over a period of years, with the rash and the itching coming back every time the skin is exposed to UV light.
“This year we are particularly concerned, as the wet Spring, coupled with warmer temperatures in mid-May, are providing the optimum conditions for the plant to thrive.”
The PCA has a five-point guide to help the public identify the plant, covering its main features.
Daniel added: “Giant Hogweed does have distinct features, which should help people to recognise it, although we urge the public not to get too close to the plant to identify it.
“Sometimes it can be confused with the UK’s native Hogweed, Cow Parsley or even Hemlock. However, these are much smaller in size and their leaves have a smoother outline.”
The PCA’s Identification Guide for Giant hogweed includes:
Height – As its name implies, the overriding feature of Giant hogweed is its sheer size. The plant can grow up to five metres high.
Stem size – It has a stem that measures up to 10 centimetres in diameter.
Flowers – The plant produces a large, white, umbrella shaped flowering head, with a single umbel capable of producing 50,000 seeds per head.
Leaves – Giant hogweed has sharply serrated or divided leaves, which reach up to three metres.
Markings – Giant hogweed’s stem is usually covered in blotchy purple markings. Sharp bristles can also be found on the stem and under the leaves.
A free guide from the PCA’s Invasive Weed Control Group on managing Giant hogweed is available to view at https://www.property-care.org/resources/management-of-giant-hogweed
The PCA also provides a means of identifying specialist contractors and consultants with the expertise to control and manage invasive species such as Giant hogweed, as well as other invasive, non-native plants such as Japanese knotweed.
A full list of companies in the Invasive Weed Control Group is available in the ‘Find A Specialist’ section on the PCA website and more details on invasive weeds in general are available via https://www.property-care.org/homeowners/invasive-weed-control