Tweed Forum has giant hogweed on the ropes

Tweed Forum's abseling team tackling giant hogweed along the banks of the Whiteadder.
Tweed Forum's abseling team tackling giant hogweed along the banks of the Whiteadder.

Borders environmental charity, Tweed Forum, has recruited a abseilers to help it tackle one of the region’s most virulent pests – giant hogweed.

The invasive plant can grow up to 16ft tall and has toxic sap which can cause severe burns and blistering if it comes into contact with the skin. When it dies back in winter, giant hogweed leaves large patches of bare soil which cause riverbank erosion and increase flood risk.

It is one of three invasive species targeted by Tweed Forum each year in one of the UK’s largest and most successful invasive plant control programmes. Japanese knotweed and American skunk cabbage will also be tackled in the coming weeks to improve river safety, access and to protect the native biodiversity.

Invasive plant species spread rapidly, are difficult to eradicate and pose a serious threat to the UK’s native plants. Each year, Tweed Forum’s Invasive Species team walks hundreds of miles of watercourses and deals with thousands of invasive plants to protect local ecosystems, communities and tourist industries. The project is supported by the Scottish Natural Heritage Biodiversity Challenge Fund.

Last week the two-man abseiling team tackled giant hogweed in difficult-to-access areas of the Whiteadder near Paxton. They aim to chemically treat every plant before it flowers as each can then produce 30,000 to 80,000 seeds capable of surviving for up to 15 years. Every plant treated is documented using a handheld GPS device so that the species’ distribution can be clearly mapped and resources carefully targeted along the entire Tweed catchment.

Tweed Forum Director, Luke Comins, said; “The help of the Borders community in reporting sightings of these dangerous plants, and in many cases giving donations and volunteering their time, has enabled us to make a huge difference in tackling the problem along the Tweed catchment and is making the prospect of eradication a reality. We hope that farmers, anglers and the general public will be vigilant again this year and inform us of any sightings so that this important work can continue.”

Anyone spotting an invasive plant species should call 01896 849723.