Giant hogweed removal

With its blotchy purple stems and distinctive umbrellas of small flowers, Giant hogweed is a common sight in the UK. Introduced as an ornamental plant in the 19th century, today it is considered an invasive and extremely toxic non-native species that must be removed with the help of a professional invasive plant company

A close up of Giant Hogweed seeds

What is Giant hogweed?

Its scientific name is Heracleum mantegazzianum and it belongs to the same species as parsnips, carrots, and coriander.

It comes originally from an area around Central Asia and it is most often found in the UK along watercourses and in places where the ground is damp, although it can also infest gardens and survive on the more arid ground. Giant hogweed is a particular issue on waste ground and in the countryside where it can thrive undisturbed.

What does it look like?

We have Common hogweed and other similar-looking plants that grow in the UK. Unlike these species, Giant hogweed is much taller and grows to more than 5 metres at full maturity. The leaves are spiky, dark green and quite large. The stems are largely green with purple blotches and white bristles.

The flowers start developing after the plant is mature (usually about 3 years), forming an umbrella of small white flowers that can be half a metre across. During the winter, the plant dies back down into the soil and lies dormant, emerging again in spring.

close up on Giant hogweed growth

Use our extensive guide to identify Giant hogweed

What does Giant hogweed look like?

Prevent costly damage to your property

How to get rid of Giant hogweed?

Single plants and small clumps in early development can normally be safely killed off using herbicide. You must make sure that you wear protection such as heavy gloves to stop the sap from getting onto your skin and a facemask.

It’s important to dispose of any plants and their roots in a responsible manner. You shouldn’t just throw them into Your usual garden waste bag but contact a licensed landfill site or registered waste carrier who can handle their safe disposal.

While destroying a single plant is relatively easy, the big challenge with this invasive species is making sure there are no stray seeds around that could restart the growth. If the Giant hogweed has matured to the flowering stage, the ground around the plant will likely have seeds in it.

Given the risks associated with the Giant hogweed, we do not recommend that you tackle them using DIY methods unless you are suitably trained and have all of the protective equipment needed.

Professional removal is often used by businesses, councils, and other organisations when the plant is identified.

A plant like Giant hogweed can thrive for many years on waste ground before that area is developed or someone comes along to clear it. Once it gets started, Giant hogweed grows quickly and aggressively and spreads rapidly. It’s important to assess not just the immediate location but go beyond that to determine the extent of the infestation.

When there are clusters of plants, the best option is to dig up the soil and remove all traces including roots and seeds. This is important as the seeds can survive and start growing again even after a decade or more.

A professional removal company will generally set up an exclusion zone around the area being treated so that no one can wander in and be exposed to the toxic sap by accident. They will also wear full coveralls, visors, and gloves to protect them if they are physically removing the plant.

Other options for removal include spraying the plant during the growing season to remove as much as possible. This can take a long while as the seed bank remains safe in the ground and regular checks for regrowth will need to be made. It’s an option that is used when there is only a small infestation.

With over 25 years’ experience in the industry, Environet is the UK’s leading invasive plant removal company. During this time, we’ve dealt with some of the UK’s most common non-native invasive plants including Japanese knotweed, Bamboo and of course, Giant hogweed.

We specialise in helping both homeowners and developers across the UK, as well as organisations such as councils and housing associations.

Whether you need to identify a potentially invasive plant or need professional removal, contact the team at Environet today.

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Giant hogweed stems
Close up on tall Giant hogweed

What damage does Giant hogweed cause?

The first thing to note about Giant hogweed is that its sap is toxic, can burn the skin and is dangerous both to humans and animals. It causes rashes and blisters and even blindness if it gets in your eyes. This is one of the reasons why it should always be removed when identified, whether it’s in the garden or the countryside.

On top of this, Giant hogweed can form dense clusters that outcompete the native vegetation. This, in turn, can have a huge impact on the local ecosystem. When the plants die back in the winter, they usually leave bare patches. In places like riverbanks, this raises the risk of erosion and further habitat destruction.

Unfortunately, a single umbrella of flowers can produce thousands of tiny seeds which are dispersed through various means, including being transported downriver.


Legal Implications

Giant hogweed is listed in The Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order 2019, and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which make it an offence to allow the species to spread into the wild. Regardless of this legislation, immediate removal is the safest option given the risk to human and animal health. As with most invasive plants, throwing them away without a permit is also against the law and you need to ensure that you don’t infest surrounding properties.

The problem is that many people confuse Giant hogweed with more common varieties that we see in the UK. That means you could have the plant on your property and not realise until someone gets injured.

Where you stand if a Giant hogweed plant grows in your garden and spreads to your neighbours’ and causes injury, is not clearly understood by many homeowners. You could however be open to prosecution if you a) knew what it was and b) didn’t take sufficient steps to prevent it from spreading.

Recent changes in legislation mean that local councils have more authority to take action if an invasive species, including Giant hogweed, is spotted or reported on your property. That can include issuing a Community Protection Notice ordering you to have the Giant hogweed professionally removed.

Accreditations

We have robust systems in place for Environmental and Health & Safety management. Risk assessments are carried out for every aspect of our business to identify situations where harm could be caused. We have an ethos of continuous improvement to eliminate or reduce the risks with detailed working procedures, on-going training and monitoring.

All our staff have health and safety and emergency first aid training. We are also accredited by CHAS and Constructionline and are members of the Property Care Association (PCA).

GET IN TOUCH

Our team of experts is available between 9am and 5:30pm, Monday to Friday to answer your enquiries and advise you on the next steps

Want a survey?

If you already know you have an invasive plant problem, you can request a survey online in less than two minutes by providing a few brief details. A member of the team will swiftly come back to you with further information and our availability.

Need quick plant identification?

Simply upload a few images of your problem plant to our identification form and one of our invasive plant experts will take a look and let you know, free of charge what you are dealing with. We’ll also be there to help with next steps where necessary. 

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