WIGAN nature-lovers have been issued with a safety warning after a man suffered agonising burns while out on a country walk.
The Ashton resident, who does not wish to be named, was walking along the footpath on Billinge Hill when he brushed past some hogweed.
The contact with his bare legs triggered a severe allergic reaction, causing the 35-year-old to develop serious blisters to his legs and swollen feet which needed hospital treatment.
He said: “I think the plant is rife all over the borough. My burns are very painful and I dread to think what it would be like if a child comes into contact with them.
“From what the hospital have said, it can be lethal if ingested in anyway so I have to go back for blood tests to make sure it’s not in my system.
“At first I was concerned the plant may have been hemlock, as when I was a young lad, I remember being told not to go near it or to break the stems, as they have poison inside them. I just wanted to make people aware of these things as what may seem like an innocent plant can be deadly or cause burns. I think that the councils should take responsibility and eradicate them altogether.”
Alan Wright, spokesman for Lancashire Wildlife Trust, said: “Common hogweed is widespread in Wigan. It is generally found on woodland edges, roadside verges and waste ground.
“It can cause skin irritations from sap released from broken stems. The sap contains furocoumarins which, on contact, make the skin sensitive to light.
“Exposure for short periods can induce phytophotodermatitis which produces reactions from a mild rash to painful watery blisters. These may require medical treatment as they are slow to heal and they will likely leave scars. The gentleman has probably walked through an area where the hogweed has been strimmed or picked by someone else because it has been obviously caused by the sap. Other people may not react quite as badly.
“Common hogweed, giant hogweed, cow parsley and hemlock are wild flowers that look similar and can cause irritations or worse.”
Giant hogweed is rarer than the common variety and a council spokesman said if sightings of the plant are made, it would attempt to remove it. Residents who find giant hogweed should call environmental services on 01942 404364.