Deadly giant hogweed is coming to a town near you
Its sting has left some victims needing skin grafts
A grim plague of vicious hogweed is sweeping the nation.
Not to be mistaken for docile regular hogweed, giant hogweed is a towering menace that grows five metres high and emits a toxic sap which leaves its victims with horrific third-degree burns.
You’ve probably moaned about stinging nettles in the past, but a brush with them would feel like a nice warm bath compared to monstrous giant hogweed.
The plant has been around since the 1800s, but has received a lot of media attention recently after a spate of run-ins which have left multiple people in hospital.
With sightings popping up all over the country, we asked an expert how to spot the vicious plant – and how to avoid its deadly grasp.
Jess Price, Conservation Officer at Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: “We know it’s a big problem, but we don’t know the extent of it because we don’t know how much there is.
“It’s something that people are trying to rectify now – there’s an app called Plant Tracker which lets you take a picture of a plant and send it over the app to map it.”
Giant hogweed seeds are extremely hard to dispose of completely – therefore it’s easier to try and avoid them than to try and get rid of them.
Jess says: “Because of the toxic sap, you’d have to wear head-to-toe protective clothing to dispose of it.
“The problem is, people don’t know they’ve been burnt when they have. It’s not that the sap burns you, it’s that the sap reacts with your skin and stops your skin from being protected by the sun – so it’s the sun that’s burning you.
“You end up getting really severe sunburn because your natural protection is removed because of the way the chemicals react.
“So what happens is people get the sap on them, stay outside for the rest of the day and end up horrifically burnt.
“The best thing to do is to know what it looks like and to avoid it, and if you brush up against something that looks like it to cover up the area from the light immediately.
“Then you can get somewhere where you can wash it with soap and water before you seek medical help.”
The Plant Tracker app has in-depth details of hogweed sightings, and can help you spot the malicious menace.
In the meantime, our handy map will give you an idea of some of the most heavily-infested areas in the UK.
Giant hogweed has been spotted in these locations:
Probably best just to stay inside.