A TEENAGER had a blister the size of an orange and couldn’t even get dressed after touching ‘Britain’s most dangerous plant’.
Ross McPherson, 16, said he passed giant hogweed while cycling near his home in Dunbar, East Lothian.
A few hours later, he noticed his hand turning red – and soon after developed painful blisters that required hospital treatment.
The blisters had to be removed without anesthesia, causing the teenager so much pain that he passed out.
He said: “I was cycling and must have just passed it. When I first noticed it, my hand was just red and a little sore.”
“I didn’t know what it was. It felt warm.”
“It had a major impact on daily life. I couldn’t put clothes over it and because it was over my ankles I couldn’t really use my left hand.”
“It felt like I was holding a giant balloon that was in pain at all times of the day.”
Ross added, “I could barely take my coat off, I could barely put a sweater or t-shirt on.”
“Basically it was useless – I couldn’t do anything with it.”
“I had minor blisters over my knuckles, so moving my fingers was also a pain.”
Ross said his hand was initially examined by his GP, who diagnosed contact dermatitis.
Ultimately, however, he was treated at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh after visiting the emergency room.
The teenager had a mixture of second and third degree burns.
He said: “The person we were visiting originally thought we had to go to the Livingston burns department to have that done.”
“But they told her to just do it at the Royal Infirmary, so she cut a tube in and drained the liquid.
“Part of it was jelly, so she opened it up and pulled out the jelly, and she cut around all the dead and blistered skin and pulled it off — there was quite a bit of it.”
“You don’t use anesthesia because you have to make sure there’s no damage to the nerves and that you can feel it – because in more serious cases that can happen.”
“It was absolute hell. It hurt so bad. I fainted from it, it was so bad.”
When it burst, the largest bubble was the size of an orange.
Ross said: “The largest was seven by three inches. He looked like an orange.”
“It was hard. I could constantly feel the weight on my hand.”
The sap of the giant hogweed prevents the skin from protecting itself from the sun’s rays, which leads to severe burns when exposed to natural sunlight.
Part of what makes it so dangerous is that it doesn’t usually cause immediate pain – victims continue to burn in the sun unaware of a problem.
Ross said, “It’s going to be tricky for many years to come, but they can’t give an exact number.”
“They said to wear a factor 50 sunscreen for the next few years, or wear a glove in the winter if possible.”
Giant Hogweed is native to the Caucasus but was introduced to Britain as an ornamental in 1817 and its spread is now out of control.
Mike Duddy of the Mersey Basin Rivers Trust said in 2015 that giant hogweed is “without a doubt the most dangerous plant in Britain”.
If you are exposed to the plant, the Woodland Trust recommends washing the contact area thoroughly and keeping it out of sunlight for a few days.
East Lothian Council said: “Suspected giant hogweed was reported to us in Dunbar and an investigation of the site concluded that it was indeed hogweed.”
“Any report of giant hogweed will be fully investigated and addressed if it is on community land.
“Members of the public are asked and encouraged to report giant hogweed to us through the website or by calling the council contact center so that these plants can be treated immediately.”
Giant Bear Claw: Know the danger
Giant hogweed can cause blisters, burns, and long-lasting scars
The plant can reach 12 feet in height and has thick, bristly stems with purple spots and clustered flowers.
It is a criminal offense to let Giant Bear Claw grow in the wild.
If you allow hogweed to invade your yard, you could face a misdemeanor. So ask your municipality to remove it immediately.
When getting rid of Giant Bear Claw, cover your arms and legs and wear a surgical mask.
Clothing and tools that come into contact with the plant also pose a hazard.
Wash any skin that comes into contact with it immediately with cold water.
The best weed killers for this task are glyphosate and triclopyr, but do not spray near watercourses or ponds.
You should only dispose of giant hogweed at a licensed landfill.