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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Wednesday 18th July 2012

It is not often I start one of these entries with a warning, and then it is usually a warning that I’ve lost my patience with some ignorant prohibitionist, but today I feel I should begin by warning that further down the page are some images that you may find hard to view.

I’ve blogged, to the point of tedium, about the Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed, growing profusely in Edinburgh and, even as I did so, I wondered if I was over-stating the risks posed by this plant.

I alluded to this on the 15th June this year when I wrote;

I can't help thinking that one of two things will happen in the next couple of months. Either there will be lots of reports of people suffering burns from contact with these plants or there will be further evidence that, although we live our lives surrounded by potentially harmful plants, we mostly avoid the harm they could cause.

Writing about the way the British Horse Society and others in the horsey community overstate the risk posed by Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea), common ragwort, has also sensitised me to the chance that I might be doing the same thing when it comes to giant hogweed.

Today, though, my Google Alert took me to a story from Northern Ireland. The Portadown Times headlined a story ‘Teens in agony after brush with Hogweed’.1 The piece concerned some teenage boys who had been exposed to giant hogweed and suffered as a result. The father of one of the boys brought the matter to the attention of the paper because he wanted other people to be aware of the danger though he didn’t want any of the lads to be identified.

I contacted the Portadown Times to see if I could get permission to use the photograph that appeared with the story and I was very grateful to receive an almost immediate reply not just giving permission but also sending two further pictures.

The following pictures are, therefore, copyright 2012 the Portadown Times, used with permission. And, again, you may find these to be unpleasant viewing.

Burns from Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed


Burns from Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed


Burns from Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed

I fully appreciate that anecdote is not evidence and that this one, very unfortunate, instance does not prove that there is widespread harm being down by these plants. What it does do, I suggest, is show that the harm that can be caused is extremely unpleasant and that leaving these plants to mature and seed in public places is an error. 


1.Teens in agony after brush with Hogweed Portadown Times 17th July 2012

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