The Go Wild Go West blog

UK’s poisonous plants: Giant Hogweed

Giant Hogweed…. the riverside menace

Nobody likes a party-pooper but…. with everyone out enjoying our local rivers, lakes, and canals this Spring/Summer, it’s worth highlighting a serious risk which is prevalent where I live in the Chew Valley, across Bristol and indeed all across the UK. There is a poisonous plant called Giant Hogweed and it’s known as one of the UK’s most deadly plants.

What is Giant Hogweed?

Not to be confused with Common Hogweed which, as name suggests, is very common and totally harmless, Giant Hogweed is a beast of a plant growing anywhere from 1 meter to 6 meters tall! It has very high levels of furanocoumarins in the sap, and any contact with it’s sap will give you severe phototoxic burns. These burns can cause problems for years. Sadly I know a few people affected and it’s becoming increasingly common.

I thought I’d post some pictures so you know what to look out for and what to avoid when you’re out adventuring on the river banks. I’ve only seen it once and it is incredibly large. The flowers look a little like cow parsley but the leaves are very different. It also has chunky, bright green stems often with purple/red spots or blotches. If touched, Giant Hogweed leaves severe burns which can scar for a number of years. I won’t put up any pictures of the effects but it’s pretty nasty.

giant hogweed

We’ve got numerous poisonous plants in the UK including fox gloves, hemlock, and bluebells but this seems to be a lesser known one so worth familiarising yourself with.

Find out more information from the Woodland Trust here.

But as long as you’re aware of it’s present, don’t let Giant Hogweed put you off exploring our beautiful river banks and even wild swimming! Here are out top wild swimming spots in Somerset and a few in Dartmoor!