Walkers are being warned to be extra vigilant after reports that toxic giant hogweed is back in the borough.
The vicious plant has been found growing on the banks of the River Douglas near Appley Bridge and also next to a path off The Nook in the same village.
The weed grows very quickly and contains chemicals known as photo-sensitising furanocoumarins which can inflict the most horrendous burns and swellings which a very difficult to treat and heal.
These substances prevent the body from protecting itself from UV light and so leads to burning even on cold days.
A red rash develops on the skin, which grows more painful and then blisters.
An Environment Agency spokesperson, said: “Giant hogweed takes at least three years to reach a flowering size, and landowners should familiarise themselves with what young hogweed looks like and treat it before it forms seed. Anyone working with giant hogweed needs to take great care to avoid contact with the toxic sap.
“Ultimately it’s the landowner’s responsibility to remove these plants. There is lots of information about removing giant hogweed and other non-native plants on gov.uk and you can help report the spread of invasive plants through the plant tracker app.”
The plants were both discovered by Shevington amateur photographer Chris Scaldwell.
He said: “I was out walking my dog on the fields between Gathurst and Appley Bridge when I saw this enormous plant that looked like something out of a movie.
“I hadn’t realised what it was at first but, having shown my picture to the Wigan Post and its wildlife expert, I’m very glad I didn’t touch it. A couple of days later I found some more just off a very popular footpath near to the Fir Tree Fisheries.
“I hope someone is going to do something about them soon before someone gets hurt.”
It is three years since there were last reports of giant hogweed in the area, having been found both in Mosley Common and Westwood Cemetery. That same year five children were treated for serious burns in Bolton and Salford after coming into contact with giant hogweed.
The plant can spread rapidly if its seeds are nby moving water and it grows very quickly to about 10ft tall. It has pointed leads.
Ordinary hogweed only grows to 6ft high and is perfectly safe. It is also regarded as a nice plant as it provides lots of pollen and nectar for insects.