Toxic giant hogweed danger in Methilhill

Mr Caldwell and the giant hogweed. Pic: George McLuskie
Mr Caldwell and the giant hogweed. Pic: George McLuskie

A patch of the toxic plant giant hogweed has been found near a popular walking area in Methilhill.

The strip of giant hogweed - which has chemicals in the sap that can make the skin sensitive to sunlight and cause blistering and scarring - was discovered along a track between the end of Poplar Road and the River Leven.

Local resident Ken Caldwell, who first discovered the plant, is worried that unsuspecting walkers and children could come into contact with the giant hogweed, unaware of the danger it poses.

He said: “Kids and walkers didnt’ use to be able to get into the area where the giant hogweed is and now they have got clear access to it.”

Ken believes the track that runs alongside the plant was created by Scotish Water while conducting maintenance work in the area.

For Ken, responsibility lies with them for not dealing with the issue during the maintenance work.

He feels they should have warned local people about the plant.

Ken said: “Scottish Water created the path. It should be dealing with it or at least making notices to let people know – but no one seems to care. I’ve emailed twice and they said they would send an inspector down to speak to me. I’ve not heard anything since.”

Ken, who regularly walks his dog through the area, was also concerned by the lack of knowledge about the dangerous plant. “I’ve spoken to other walkers, people who walk their dogs in this area, and they don’t have a clue about giant hogweed,” he added. Neither do children. What happens if they come down here and touch the plant?

“If kids go down there playing, they don’t know about the dangers.”

However, a representative of Scottish Water said the issue of dealing with the toxic plant falls to the landowner.

The land belongs to Wemyss Estate, but the estate owners insist maintenance of this area is the responsibility of Fife Council. The local authority claimed it was only responsible for some of the land and this area is up to the private landowner to control.

The plant, a relative of cow parsley originally from south Russia, can have potentially dangerous effects including blistering, pigmentation and can leave scars that can last for years.

It was introduced to the UK in the 19th century as an ornamental plant but quickly spread and can now be found throughout Scotland growing near riverbanks and canals.

Although it is illegal to plant, spread or release any non-native species of plant in Scotland, landowners are only encouraged to control any on their land.

Fife Council encourages anyone who sees giant hogweed on council land to report it online or by calling (01592) 583266.