Giant Hogweed is reportedly spreading and could not only be invasive but also cause serious health problems. Experts from WhatShed have now created maps to help the public keep track of where it’s growing, with sightings verified by experts before they’re added to records. Currently these maps show that there are several Giant Hogweed hotspots across the UK.
According to Yorkshire Live, the maps show where the plant has been sighted, including places like Heathrow, Bristol, Maidstone, Belfast and Edinburgh.
You can find out about the grow in your area by visiting the map yourself and noting any sightings you come across.
What is Giant Bear Claw?
Formerly known as Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed is a member of the Apiaceae family, which includes plants such as parsley, carrot, parsnip, cumin, and coriander. Unlike these household favorites, however, giant hogweed is an invasive plant that grows and grows and grows.
Originally introduced to Britain from the Eurasia region in the 19th century, giant hogweed looks similar to cow parsley but is oversized. Experts from WhatShed say it can grow up to 20 feet tall, while each giant hogweed plant can spread over a range of around two meters, making them highly invasive.
The sap is one of the most notable parts of the plant, with its thick green stem flecked with purple and white hairs. With thick green leaves that can grow up to 1.50 m wide, giant hogweed lives up to its name.
Why is giant hogweed dangerous?
The risk is apparently very real and people need to be aware of the hairy sap of the plant as this is where the danger lies. They contain furocoumarins—organic toxic chemical compounds—and can be severely irritating to people’s skin because the toxins penetrate deep into a person’s cells.
What are the side effects?
Due to the bristly nature of the sap and its hairs, it is easy for humans to graze the giant hogweed without realizing it. If this is the case, the sap’s toxins could make themselves felt on a large scale, causing both burns and scarring on people’s skin.
In the short term, someone who encounters giant hogweed may experience blisters and rashes, as well as painful sores.
However, the long-term consequences are more dramatic as people face potential disfigurement or long-lasting purple spots on their skin. Those worst affected could experience skin irritation even months or years after exposure to the plant.
Anyone who thinks that giant hogweed only affects humans needs to think again as the plant has been found to cause similar side effects in dogs too, urging people to be cautious when using their dog walking.
Can Giant Bear Claw kill?
The answer here is unlikely, but people should still be careful. Although the risks in terms of side effects are high, they have not resulted in death.
However, they can cause long-term pain, with the sap being particularly dangerous as it can permanently blind someone if it comes in contact with another person’s eyes. Most people who come into contact with giant hogweed require hospitalization, which means it’s not to be taken lightly if a blister or rash develops after contact.
Where does giant hogweed occur?
A map provided by WhatShed shows it can be found in and around most major Yorkshire towns.
What to do if you come across giant hogweed?
The first rule for anyone who finds giant hogweed is to keep your distance, even the slightest touch can cause painful burns and blisters.
However, if anyone has come into contact with it, young, old or pet, they should wash the affected area as soon as possible and seek medical attention. Experts also advise getting indoors and out of direct sunlight as soon as possible to reduce the risk of burns.
Although there is no legal obligation for landowners to eliminate giant hogweed, local authorities will often take action to eliminate the infestation in public areas. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) lists it in Schedule 9, Section 14, meaning that it is a criminal offense to allow giant hogweed to grow in the wild in England and Wales (similar laws exist in Scotland and Northern Ireland ).
It can also be the subject of anti-social behavior orders, where occupants of giant hogweed infested soil can be required to weed or face penalties. Local authorities have the power to request the removal of Giant Hogweed under certain circumstances.