GIANT hogweed has invaded the banks of the Avon Water.
Its notorious ability to spread means it’s unlawful to plant it in the wild and its toxic sap causes ‘burning’ blisters on human skin.
Recognising the need to curb this aggressive invader, landowners downstream of Sway have joined forces and are working together with Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to stop it spreading.
“We have fought against the giant hogweed since 2010,” says Catherine Chatters, the Wildlife Trust’s New Forest Non-Native Plants Officer.
“But more money is urgently required if we are to continue the battle effectively this year.”
Landowners between Sway and Keyhaven share Catherine’s concern about the problems caused by giant hogweed. They have seen how quickly it can threaten our native wildlife as it typically grows to five metres tall and its large leaves shade out the light.
Once a river bank has become dominated by giant hogweed it becomes virtually impossible to manage. Also, as giant hogweed stems are hollow, children are at risk of nasty blistering on their faces if they use the stems as pretend telescopes or pea-shooters.
For the past few years The New Forest Non-Native Plants Project has provided funding for a co-ordinated programme of treatment by professional contractors using approved herbicide along the banks of the Avon Water but now, with drastic cut-backs to public funding, other sources of money need to be found.
“Each giant hogweed plant is capable of producing 50,000 seeds so it is vitally important the control work continues.
“If we stop now and allow the hogweed plants to produce seed, we could be back at square one in no time at all” said Catherine.
Landowners from the Sway area met at the end of last month to formulate a plan of action and explore ways of securing funding.
In addition to donations secured from Lymington and Pennington Town Council and other landowners along the Avon Water, the Wildlife Trust is seeking grant aid and is keen to hear from representatives of organisations and businesses in the area which might be able to contribute financially.
If you or your business are interested in sponsoring the battle against the giant hogweed, please contact Catherine Chatters, New Forest Non-Native Plants Officer at Catherine.Chatters@hiwwt.org.uk or on 07770 923315 to discuss how you might be able to help.