Tweed Forum has giant hogweed on the ropes

A team of abseilers has been recruited to help tackle one of the region’s most virulent plant pests.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 05 July, 2019, 09:00
A member of Tweed Forum’s abseiling team tackles giant hogweed along the banks of the Whiteadder.

Giant hogweed is one of three invasive species targeted by Borders environmental charity Tweed Forum each year in one of the UK’s largest and most successful invasive plant control programmes.

The plant can grow up to 16ft tall and has toxic sap that can cause severe burns and blistering if it comes into contact with the skin, so must be treated with extreme care.

When it dies back in winter, it leaves large patches of bare soil. This causes riverbank erosion and increases flood risk.

This week, with its two-man abseiling team, Tweed Forum has been tackling it in difficult-to-access areas of the Whiteadder near Paxton.

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.

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“We hope that farmers, anglers and the general public will once again be vigilant this year and inform us of any sightings so that this important work can continue.”

Japanese knotweed and American skunk cabbage will also be tackled in the coming weeks and months in an effort to improve river safety and access, and to protect the catchment’s native biodiversity.

Each year, Tweed Forum’s invasive species team walks hundreds of miles of watercourses and deals with thousands of invasive plants in order to protect local ecosystems, communities and tourist industries.

The project is supported by the Scottish Natural Heritage Biodiversity Challenge Fund.

Anyone spotting an invasive plant species should call the Tweed Forum on 01896 849723.