Sunday, 4 July 2010

Return to the Giant Hogweed

Where I grew up, nearly half a century ago, I recall that there was a Giant Hogweed plant. I don't recall seeing one since, so when we returned to the valley I returned to the spot to see if it was still there.
Indeed it was, large as life and twice as scary, with a few partners along the field edge.
The plants are about 8' to 12' high, and the leaves are up to 3' across. The stems, which children apparently always want to use as blowpipes, are 3-4" in diameter. I don't recall ever being tempted, nor did I suffer from the consequent blistering burns.

Genesis wrote probably the only song about the difficulties of eradicating alien plant species :
The Return of the Giant Hogweed......

Waste no time!
They are approaching.
Hurry now, we must protect ourselves and find some shelter
Strike by night!
They are defenceless.
They all need the sun to photosensitize their venom.

They don't write songs like that any more.
Considering our Health and Safety culture, and their position near a public road, I'm surprised that the plants have survived.


Phil said...

That's a very fine giant hogweed. There used to be masses of giant hogwed along the river Wear, downstream from Durham City, but it doesn't seem to be as common as it once was. I went to a conference on alien plants in the Scottish border region a few years ago, where they'd conducted a survey of outpatients departments in the region for cases of people being injured by the plant: just one case in 20 years, caused by someone hacking it down and getting the sap on their skin. Our native hogweed H.spondylium also contains the same chemical compounds that sensitise skin to sunlight, and has been introduced into New Zealand and has become a pest, with the same health fears. There's a condition known as 'strimmer's dermatitis', that sometimes occurs when people strim hogweed and get the sap on their skin.

Kingsdowner said...

Thanks for the info Phil.
You write that there were masses of the plant - has it been eradicated, or died out on its own, I wonder?

abbey meadows said...

The first time I saw Giant Hogweed was at Beal near Holy island. At the time I was a 10 year old (a small one at that)and these plants were the size of trees. I have only seen it twice since...Preston park on Teeside in the 80's and a single plant growing beside the main line at Widdrington station in 2005 but not seen in subsequent years.