Warning issued over giant hogweed

Dog walkers Bill Archibald (left) and John Miller at the cordoned off hogweed.
Dog walkers Bill Archibald (left) and John Miller at the cordoned off hogweed.

Users of a popular riverside walk in Cupar are being warned about a profusion of the dangerous giant hogweed plant.

Local resident Alan Buchan said he was ‘horrified’ by the amount of the toxic plants growing along the banks of the River Eden, on a route known as Riverside East, when he was out walking his dog last week.

“It is completely out of control,” he said.

“It is growing all the way along the path next to the river and poses a real danger to people.

“The path is popular with dog walkers and some dogs love to run around in the undergrowth.

“Anyone stroking the dog afterwards could find themselves badly hurt.”

A non-native species that can grow up to 10 feet tall, giant hogweed is not new but appears to be spreading.

Fresh warnings have been issued about its dangers following a recent incident in which a 10-year-old girl suffered horrific burns after getting some sap on her skin while fishing at Loch Lomond.

She was one of five children across the UK who suffered serious injuries in the space of a week.

The responsibility for getting rid of the plants lies with the landowner and Fife Council said a clump on the north side of the Eden was treated last year as part of an ongoing programme.

Mike Fuchs, the local authority’s parks development and countryside service manager, said: “We’re not aware of any problems with giant hogweed on our land.

“However, the majority of giant hogweed is found on private land and in these cases the landowner is responsible for destroying it and contacting the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).

“I would encourage anyone who sees any non-native invasive species, including giant hogweed, on council land to let us know.

“You can report it online at www.fifedirect.org.uk/beautifulfife or by calling 01592 583266.”

The plant’s poison, found in its leaves, stems, roots, flowers and seeds, can be transferred to the skin by touch - even if for a brief moment.

Any contact between the sap and the skin can cause irritation and severe burns and make skin sensitive to strong sunlight. In some cases, severe blistering will occur that heals very slowly and getting sap in an eye can even result in blindness.