DANGEROUS INVADER: Giant hogweed has no natural predators in the UK
DANGEROUS INVADER: Giant hogweed has no natural predators in the UK

CONSERVATIONISTS at the Tees Rivers Trust are on a mission to combat the invasive alien species giant hogweed across the river catchment.

The trust has received a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to remove giant hogweed and reintroduce native flora, restore access making the river a safer amenity for all and raise awareness of the dangers of the plant.

Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is native to the Caucasus mountains in southwest Russia and Georgia. It can grow up to 5m, has sharply serrated leaves and green and purple splotchy stems.

Each plant can produce 20,000-50,000 seeds, which results in the plant taking over large areas of land. As it has no natural predators in the UK, it is significantly reducing biodiversity of native species.

Giant hogweed also has phototoxic sap that is harmful, causing blisters and burns if touched by bare skin.

Tees Rivers Trust has been creating partnerships with landowners, communities, and organisations such as What3Words to raise awareness and control this invasive alien across the whole of the Tees.

Officials have also been working closely with schools to inform children about the dangers of the plant and passing on tips of how to identify it.

Project officer Chloe Lawrence said: “We want the River Tees and its tributaries to be a safe and accessible amenity for everyone in the catchment.

“Giant hogweed is a huge threat to this, as well as the detrimental impact it has on our native species which is why it is so important to control it.

“Our mission is crucial, not only to inform people on the dangers of giant hogweed, but also raise awareness about how it can be controlled.”

Anyone interested in getting involved in the project should contact Tees Rivers Trust.