What is giant hogweed and how do you recognize it in the UK?

Giant Bear Claw

Giant Hogweed can grow to an enormous size and also pose a significant threat (Picture: Getty)

Heracleum mantegazzianum, or as it is commonly known, Giant Hogweed is a non-UK native plant that is commonly found on UK riverbanks and can be dangerous to humans.

There have recently been reports of painful blistering images from people who have come into contact with the giant plant.

A primary school girl in Bolton was left with horrific second-degree burns, while a 22-month-old child walked away “in agony” after exposure to the poisonous weed in early June.

Knowing what giant hogweed is, what it looks like, and how it can pose a threat to humans is key to avoiding harm and protecting yourself and others.

What is bear’s claw and is it poisonous?

The giant hogweed is not native to Britain and was first introduced to the country from southern Russia and Georgia in the 19th centuryth Century.

A towering plant that can grow up to ten feet tall, it can easily be confused with cow parsley, one of the reasons it poses a hazard to those unaware of the risks involved in touching the hogweed .

The New Journal of Botany, published in 2013, described giant hogweed as “a public health threat.”

The Royal Horticultural Society states that the main danger posed to humans by giant hogweed is the plant sap which, if it gets on the skin and exposes the skin to sunlight, can cause burns and blisters.

According to their website, “Chemicals in the sap can cause photodermatitis, or photosensitivity, in which the skin is very sensitive to sunlight and can suffer blistering, pigmentation, and long-lasting scarring.”

If your skin comes into contact with giant hogweed, you should wash it immediately, keep it out of the sun, and seek medical attention.

What is the difference between Bärenklau and Riesenbärenklau?

Bear’s hogweed is – unlike the giant hogweed – a widespread native plant in the UK and is found in abundance in hedges.

The Wildlife Trusts describe it as a member of the ‘carrot family’, displaying large, umbrella-like clusters of creamy white flowers between May and August that are attractive to insects, although they can bloom year-round.

It can only grow up to two meters long, making it a full meter shorter than the giant hogweed.

The sap of the hogweed is also less toxic than that of the giant hogweed (and some other umbellifers) and therefore does not cause the same skin irritations.

How to spot giant hogweed in the UK

Similar to cow parsley, giant hogweed is a long-stemmed green plant with white flowers, but has a few characteristics that set it apart from the harmless fern-like foliage.

Giant Bear Claw

The Giant Hogweed or Heracleum mantegazzianum can usually be seen towering over other plants (Image: FlowerPhotos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

First, the giant hogweed is much larger than the cow parsley, growing to well over 1.5 meters in height. Its leaves and flowers are also much larger than cow parsley and other similar plants – so keep an eye out for plants that resemble an oversized or giant cow parsley or rhubarb plant.

Giant Hogweed also has hollow green stems with purple spots and stiff, white hairs, and huge leaves with irregular, jagged edges.

What happens if you touch Bärenklau?

The giant hogweed secretes a dangerous sap from its stems, both when rooting and when extracting.

The sap can cause severe burns and skin damage on contact with skin, often resulting in blistering at the point of contact.

Some reactions can develop phytophotodermatitis, meaning exposure to the plant chemicals when exposed to the sun can cause skin inflammation.

If you accidentally get Giant Bear Claw Juice on your skin, Healthline says you should wash the area with mild soap and cold water as soon as possible and keep skin covered when outdoors to protect from sunlight.

If a rash or blister starts to form, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Should I remove Bärenklau?

Giant Bear Claw.

The leaves of the giant hogweed are large and jagged. (Image: Schellhorn/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

If you think you’ve identified Giant Hogweed in your area, avoid walking through or near it – definitely don’t try to remove it yourself.

Consult a weed removal expert or contact your local authority as they have the power in certain circumstances to have the hazardous plant removed under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

MORE : These are the most poisonous plants that threaten your garden the most

MORE: These are the plants you need to get your garden going again this summer

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https://metro.co.uk/2022/06/16/what-is-giant-hogweed-and-how-to-identify-it-in-the-uk-16842315/ What is giant hogweed and how do you recognize it in the UK?

Justin Scacco

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