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Giant hogweed

This former ‘beauty queen’ of 19th century ornamental gardens can now be found along waterways and areas of wasteland, reaching heights of up to five metres.

Close up of head of giant hogweed Giant hogweed, copyright GBNNS

Although it closely resembles harmless cow parsley, don’t let its pretty flower-like appearance throw you off; this dark-green giant contains sap that can burn the skin when exposed to sunshine.

Due to its height giant hogweed keeps other plants in the shade, preventing the sunlight from reaching them. This increases the risk of bank erosion as, when the weed dies off in the winter, it exposes bare banks where other plants would otherwise be.

In fact, it’s such a nuisance the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 actually makes it an offence to plant or cause giant hogweed to grow in the wild.

Last date edited: 29 July 2015