Giant Hogweed Warning- Daily Mail Newspaper- Exclusive News Story- ***September 2013***

Keith Cooper contacted us after his leg swelled up and left him in agony, caused by coming into contact with a giant hogweed plant that was growing wild.

Mr Cooper wanted to warn others about this plant as his injuries mean he cannot expose his injured leg to sunlight for up to  seven years.

We sold the story for Keith to the Daily Mail newspaper who ran an inofrmative piece explaining what precautions to take.

Scroll down to read the full story.

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In agony, walker who stepped on a poisonous giant hogweed: Man cannot expose injured leg to sunlight for 7 years

  • Keith Cooper stepped on a giant hogweed stalk while dog-walking
  • His leg was covered in poisonous sap, hospitalising hi


A man has described how his leg swelled up and erupted in blisters after he went to examine a ‘pretty plant’ that his wife had seen.

Keith Cooper did not realise that they had stumbled across giant hogweed and was hit by the plant’s toxic sap after stepping on one of its leaf stalks.

He had to be taken to hospital where he was told he could not expose his injured right leg to sunlight for seven years.

Poison: Keith Cooper from Howdon, Tyne & Wear, shows his injured leg as he rests at home

Poison: Keith Cooper from Howdon, Tyne & Wear, shows his injured leg as he rests at home


Mr Cooper, 50, was out for a stroll in Whitley Bay, near Newcastle upon Tyne, with his 49-year-old wife, Maria Graham when she spotted the plant in the undergrowth.

‘We were walking the dog near the coast road when my wife stopped to admire a plant and she asked if we could have one for our garden,’ the father-of-two said.

‘The sap rubbed against me but I didn’t realise as it didn’t hurt. I just thought I had been bitten. It was only when I got home that my right leg flared up and it started blistering.’

Unable to walk without limping, Mr Cooper, a former dispensing optician, went to hospital where his condition at first baffled doctors.

‘The consultant said she he had never seen anything like it,’ he said.

After a while doctors were able to identify the cause of the blistering as a giant hogweed.

Mr Cooper, from Howdon in Newcastle, said: ‘They told me I can’t put my leg in the sun for the next seven years. If my leg goes into the sun it blisters again because the injury has taken all the skin’s natural UV protection away. I will have to go round with one sock on.’

He had developed phytophotodermatitis – a disorder which makes skin hypersensitive to ultraviolet light and can last for years.

Giant hogweed sap contains toxic chemicals known as photosensitising furanocoumarins, which react with light when in contact with human skin, causing blistering within 48 hours.

Effectively the toxic sap prevents the skin from protecting itself from sunlight, which can lead to very bad sunburn and scarring.

Damaged: Mr Cooper cannot expose his injured leg to direct sunlight for seven years after the poisonous sap destroyed his skin's UV protection

Damaged: Mr Cooper cannot expose his injured leg to direct sunlight for seven years after the poisonous sap destroyed his skin's UV protection


If accidentally rubbed in the eyes, the sap can cause temporary or even permanent blindness.

Anyone who comes in contact with the weed is advised to cover up the affected area, to prevent the sap reacting with sunlight, and to wash it with soap and water.

Giant hogweed, an invasive species that resembles native cow parsley or hogweed, has large leaves, spotted leaf stalks and a hollow, reddish-purple stem with fine spines that make it appear furry, much like a stinging nettle


Giant hogweed is part of the carrot family, but it can grow up to 16ft tall.

It is found in most of the UK, often near rivers and canals – the seeds spread on waterways as well as being dispersed by birds and people.

The weed’s scientific name, Heracleum mantegazzianum, comes from the Greek hero Hercules – famed for his strength and size.

A native of the Caucasus mountains and central Asia, it was introduced to Britain in the 19th century as an ornamental plant and is resistant to frost.

Giant hogweed can take four years to flower. When it does so, in June and July, it has 20in wide flower heads filled with small white blooms.

A single flower head can have 5,000 seeds, with each plant producing up to 80,000 seeds. After shedding its seeds the plant normally dies.

It is commonly found along rivers and canals as well as beside footpaths and roads.

Guy Barter, chief horticultural adviser at the Royal Horticultural Society, said the plant was introduced as an ornamental garden plant in the 19th century, but then spread rapidly into the wild where it now proliferates.

‘Sadly, once imported, it didn’t stay in the garden, and it was quickly out in the environment, with its seeds floating off along watercourses,’ he said.

‘You can immediately recognise it because it is much bigger than the native species, and has a thick bristly stem and often purple blotches.

‘As a rule, the plant is benign, but it has a particularly annoying property – the sap can cause injury when combined with sunlight.’

Gardeners wanting to tackle the giant weed are advised to wear gloves and overalls, and use secateurs not a strimmer, to prevent the sap coming in contact with the skin. They should only try to get rid of it when the weather is cloudy.

‘The sap is only activated by sunlight, so if you want to clear giant hogweed, then make sure it is a dull day,’ said Mr Barter.

Seedlings and young plants can be hand pulled, while larger plants can be cut down to ground level or may be dug out.

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