RESIDENTS are being warned of the dangers of giant hogweed amid reports the toxic plant was spotted in Alva.

A warning was issued by NatureScot and Care of Burns in Scotland (COBIS) ahead of the school summer holidays, a time when children are most likely to be exploring the outdoors.

Giant hogweed sap contains a toxic chemical, which can cause skin to experience extreme sensitivity to sunlight and causes severe blisters, causing potentially serious and long lasting blisters.

Robert Stevenson spotted the invasive plants at the burn near Alva Academy and voiced fears that it could spread quickly and cause harm to children.

He said: “There’s a small burn that goes past the entrance to the school and I saw two big plants in there.

“It’s always been a concern that if it got into the county, it has ideal conditions to propagate in the area due to the waterways.

“Once it gets hold, it can be really difficult to get rid of and there have been instances in the past where children have been admitted to hospital after coming into contact with the sap.”

TOXIC: Sightings of giant hogweed have been reported near Alva Academy. Picture by Robert Stevenson

TOXIC: Sightings of giant hogweed have been reported near Alva Academy. Picture by Robert Stevenson

Stan Whitaker, invasive species policy manager for NatureScot, said: “It’s really important for people to be able to recognise giant hogweed so they can avoid potentially serious injury.

“Thankfully, the plant is relatively easy to identify when fully grown due to its enormous size of between two and four metres tall, with large white clusters of flowers up to 80 centimetres wide.

“Its leaves are very large and sharply divided and can be over one metre across while the stems are green with purple blotches and covered with bristly hairs.”

Giant hogweed can be treated by cutting the plant down and using strong weedkiller on it, with NatureScot urging anyone who encounters the species to report it straight away.

“It can be very tricky to eradicate,” Stan added. “Each plant produces over 20,000 seeds, which can live in the soil for up to five years, so land owners need to take a long-term approach to removing it every year, before it flowers.”

If anyone comes into contact with giant hogweed, they should immediately cover the affected area and wash it with soap and water as soon as possible.

Keep the area away from sunlight for at least 48 hours, even on dull or overcast days and protect the sensitive areas with sun-screen for the following months.

If symptoms persist, contact a doctor as soon as possible.