Toxic plant found in Cleckheaton

MENACE: Poisonous plant Giant Knotweed, which can grow taller than a double decker bus, has been spotted in Cleckheaton.
MENACE: Poisonous plant Giant Knotweed, which can grow taller than a double decker bus, has been spotted in Cleckheaton.

A TOXIC plant that causes skin blistering, scarring and even blindness has been found in Cleckheaton.

Giant hogweed, which can grow up to five metres tall, has been seen along Spen Beck near Spen Baths, and at Chain Bar.

Kirklees Council is warning anyone who spots the plant to keep well away – and report it to the council.

A spokeswoman said: “The plant, heracleum mantegazzianum, originates in the Caucasus mountains of south-west Asia. It was introduced to Britain by a Victorian plant collector and has gone on to cause damage to riverbanks and watercourses. £12bn is currently spent controlling the plant across Europe and £7.5m in Britain alone.

“Anyone finding giant hogweed is advised to keep away from it as the sap is very corrosive and will burn skin and render it sensitive to ultra-violet light.

“Touching the plant or brushing against it is enough to cause quite serious injury. Exposed to sunlight, the sap will cause painful blistering within a few hours of contact and can cause long-term skin problems. Contact with the eyes can even cause blindness.”

The plant has a reddish purple stem with fine spines that make it appear furry like a stinging nettle. It has hollow stems, spotted leaf stalks and leaves up to 1.5 metres wide.

It flowers in June and July and has flower heads that are usually 50cm wide. Each flower head is capable of producing 50,000 seeds every year. Seeds can stay in the soil for several years before they develop.

To report giant hogweed, contact Kirklees Direct on 01484414700 and give details of its location.