Warning: 11ft tall toxic weed that can cause blindness spotted in Leighton

Kevin Ward near the giant hogweed
Kevin Ward near the giant hogweed

A botanist has issued a warning to walkers after spotting a dangerous plant which can cause severe burns and even blindness.

While walking along the canal towpath near the bridge by Tesco in Vimy Road, Kevin Ward noticed the presence of an 11ft tall giant hogweed – a phototoxic plant which can cause severe skin inflammations.

Giant hogweed seen growing tall in the centre of the photo and to the right

Giant hogweed seen growing tall in the centre of the photo and to the right

The weed’s sap can also lead to temporary and permanent blindness if it is exposed to the eyes.

Mr Ward, 57, of Old Road, Linslade, told the LBO that this is the first time he has seen the weed in the UK over the last three years.

He said: “Alot of people would not be able to recognise what giant hogweed is but it is a very nasty invader.

“If they do start to spread along the canal it could be very bad.”

Mr Ward added that he immediately recognised the plant as it was a widespread problem in the 1960s.

He said: “Back then there was a lot of information put about on how to deal with it, you were told to put a cloth sack over it and then burn it.

“You would also told not to hack at it, as the sap would come out.

“We used to go out hunting for it.”

A Central Beds Council spokesman told the LBO: “While giant hogweed may look like cow parsley, it is substantially larger and flowers later in the year. It can grow more than 10ft tall with huge white flowers and often grows along rivers and in wet areas.

“The sap can potentially cause blisters and rashes on the skin, especially if touched in sunlight; this is known as phototoxicity.

“Residents are advised to stay away from the plant at all times.”