Giant Hogweed that has caused horrific burns to youngsters has spread dramatically across Lincolnshire – and is still growing.
A new study by the Botanical Society of the British Isles has revealed the scale of the epidemic – which sees the weed growing across an area from Spalding in the south all the way up to Scunthorpe.
The dangerous plant can also be found in major towns and cities including Lincoln, Boston and Skegness.
The research shows that the weed has spread significantly across the county over the decades – with Louth, Lincoln and Boston seeing a particular increase.
Known as Giant Hogweed, the plant can grow up to 20ft tall and is at its highest level in June and July.
The invasive species has left three young children with serious burns, according to the national press.
The plant is often found along footpaths and riverbanks.
According to the NHS, if the sap of the plant comes into contact with your skin, it can cause severe, painful burns and make your skin sensitive to strong sunlight. The blisters heal very slowly and can develop into phytophotodermatitis, a type of skin rash which flares up in sunlight.
If touched, they advise covering the affected area, washing it with soap and water, and contacting a doctor if you feel unwell.
How to identify it?
Hogweed looks like the innocuous cow parsley with white flowers clustered in an umbrella-shaped head that is up to 80cm in diameter.
Look for a thick green stem spotted with dark red which varies from three to eight-centimetres thick.
Each dark red spot on the stem surrounds a hair, and large, coarse white hairs occur at the base of the leaf stalk.
It can grow up to five metres tall and its sap contains toxic chemicals which react with light when in contact with human skin, causing blistering within 48 hours.
Basically it stops the skin from protecting itself against sunlight, which can cause agonising sunburn and scarring.
How did it get here?
It’s an invasive species introduced to Britain in the 19th century, but as a result it’s now widespread throughout the country.
What to do if you get sap on your skin?
Wash the area immediately with soap and water.
If you feel unwell or have a severe reaction you are advised to see a doctor.