A NATIONAL trade body is urging the people of Ayrshire to be cautious about the dangers of Giant Hogweed.

Property Care Association (PCA) is urging vigilance to help protect injury, after reports of the plant being found in some parks and wooded areas.

The plant thrives in the sun and direct contact with human skin can cause inflammation and skin conditions, which can reoccur for a number of years.

Giant Hogweed can produce up to 30,000 to 50,000 seeds, which can survive in the soil for a number of years.

The invasive weed is capable of growing to a height of up to five metres.

Dr Peter Fitzsimons, technical manager of the PCA’s Invasive Weed Control Group, said: “Giant Hogweed’s sap is extremely toxic to the skin in sunlight, making it a danger to public health.

“Youngsters are more likely to come into contact with the plant during the Summertime and the mix of warm weather and rain has provided good conditions for the weed to take hold this year.

“Giant Hogweed is also spreading across a wider area, with a number of reports of it being sited in Ayr and the surrounding areas, meaning that people are more likely to encounter it.

“If anyone comes into contact with any part of the plant, followed by exposure to sunlight, they can sustain severe blistering to the skin and discomfort, and this reaction can recur for many years.”

The PCA’s Invasive Weed Control Group has produced a guidance note on managing Giant Hogweed, which can be found on their website.

Dr Fitzsimons added: “The general public, as well as local authorities, statutory agencies and landowners on whose property people can come into contact with the plant, should be aware of the risks and Giant Hogweed needs to be controlled and managed professionally.”