Poisonous hogweed plant spreading across Lothians

Graham Rudd treats hogweed by the River Esk in Musselburgh. Picture: Toby Williams
Graham Rudd treats hogweed by the River Esk in Musselburgh. Picture: Toby Williams
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A DANGER plant which can cause extreme burning and blisters is on the march across the Lothians – fuelled by a perfect summer of downpours and searing heat.

Experts say poisonous giant hogweed plants are growing at an alarming rate in Edinburgh and the surrounding area.

If touched, the invasive green weeds cause excruciating skin burns that can take months to heal.

Their numbers this year are at record levels because of our damp spring, followed by the heatwave, according to expert Graham Rudd, of the Invasive Weeds Agency.

The authority – which said particular pockets of concern have been spotted near the City Bypass, the Gyle and Slateford – said urgent steps are needed to inform the public about the menace and get the wild growing batches destroyed.

He said: “Giant hogweed is a constant problem. Some of these plants are 12 feet tall, putting many people in danger.”

He added: “Despite the government’s constant efforts to tackle this dangerous plant, the recent hot weather and lack of rain has resulted in an earlier growth and flowering and greater seed dispersion.

“A simple contact with any part of the plant results in a painful chemical burn that initially feels like an ordinary sunburn but develops into a severe blister and peeling of the skin.

“It can take up to three to four months for the skin to heal completely and it is advised to stay away from extreme sunlight even after healed as it may trigger a repeat reaction.”

The harmless looking plants are rarely, if ever, cordoned off.

David Knott, curator of the Living Collections at the Royal Botanic Garden, said sustained treatment is needed to stem the quickly spreading plants.

Other areas taken over by the plants this year include Gilmerton Road, West Bowling Green Street and a pocket of scrub land near Ikea in Straiton.

East Lothian Council’s landscape countryside team has been monitoring hot spots along the River Esk, Musselburgh, where it has been previously found, while the Water of Leith Conservation Trust is also monitoring for it.