LOCALS have been urged to be cautious of an extremely toxic plant in the area.

The Property Care Association has advised people living in and around Ludlow and Tenbury Wells to be cautious of giant hogweed, the toxic sap of which can cause injury in the summer.

Contact with any part of giant hogweed, followed by exposure to UV light, including the sun, can cause severe discomfort and blistering to the skin, they said.

After two concurrent wet springs this year and in 2023, experts at the association said weather patterns are creating an opportunity for the plant to thrive and gain ground across the UK, with the plant already being reported in Hereford, Kidderminster and Shrawley.

Often found growing on riverbanks, where the flowing water easily spreads its seeds downstream, giant hogweed became notorious during the 1970s, with reports of children suffering skin damage and heavy blistering after using the stems to make pea shooters and telescopes.

Daniel Docking, technical manager of the Property Care Association’s invasive weed control group, said making people aware of its presence, and the health implications associated with exposure to it, are key to creating a safer environment.

He said: “Too often there are reports of people who have been injured after inadvertently coming into contact with giant hogweed.

“Children are particularly vulnerable, as they can encounter the plant while playing outdoors in the summer.

“We reported last year that the wet weather was providing an optimum environment for the invasive non-native weed to thrive, and a repeat of those conditions this year means that plant will take hold once again.

“That means there is more chance of people being exposed to it.

“Anyone unfortunate to come into contact with giant hogweed can develop symptoms including a rash, itching and blisters where skin touches any part of the plant.

“In some cases, people need urgent medical attention because the blistering can be so severe.

“There can be longer-term complications too, as the condition can reoccur over a period of years, with the rash and the itching coming back every time the skin is exposed to UV light.”