Giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam on Property Care Association radar

New legislation is putting the spotlight on invasives such as giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam, with major fines and prosecutions possible if landowners fail to deal with the problem.

Giant hogweed.     Image: PCA
Giant hogweed. Image: PCA

Now the Property Care Association (PCA) has brought together the latest guidance on the subject.

The notes on Giant Hogweed and Himalayan balsam were produced by Professor Max Wade, chairman of the PCA’s specialist Invasive Weed Control Group, and fellow senior ecologist Dr Mark Fennell. They are the first of seven new documents being produced this year by the PCA, tackling a range of issues relating to the invasive weed control sector.

New EU regulations could result in fines of thousands of pounds and prosecution if invasive plants such as these are not managed appropriately and in a timely fashion. 

The rules will empower government agencies to issue control orders that necessitate the removal of high risk invasive weed species from specified areas, potentially including derelict sites, public land, construction sites and neighbouring properties. 

Wade said: "As a result of these developments there has been a big shift in the number of property professionals wanting to get a bigger picture on the impact and implications of giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam.

"These invasive non-native plants are likely to become as significant as Japanese knotweed and the guidance documents have been produced to give a comprehensive insight into how to deal with these plants."

History and identification, the impact of each plant, and details of control methods are all discussed, with further guidance is also offered on the health risks associated with giant hogweed.

Giant hogweed sap is extremely toxic to the skin in sunlight, making it a serious and significant danger to public health. Contact with any part of the plant, followed by exposure to sunlight, can cause severe blistering to the skin and discomfort.

Himalayan balsam is also well-established in the UK and extremely invasive in lowland areas. The plant can spread rapidly on the soft banks of watercourses, where it is the predominant species, excluding native plants and, at two metres tall, in times of flood it can seriously impede water flow in streams and rivers.  In winter, when the plant dies away, the banks are exposed to erosion.

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