Country mouse considers the danger of giant hogweed

Handle with care.

Giant hogweed hit the news for hospitalising two boys last week. It’s seriously dangerous if handled with bare hands and the burns caused by the chemicals in the sap, known as furocoumarins, may affect the patient for years if exposed to bright sunlight, but it’s also one of our most impressive and fastest-growing plants.

mIt likes riverbanks, grows to 15ft and was a great favourite of Victorian gardeners; it probably escaped across London from a collection in the gardens at Buckingham Palace. Despite growing in Britain for more than 150 years, it didn’t gain its reputation as a dangerous ‘Triffid’ plant until the 1970s, when it caused a nationwide panic.

The Jekyll and Hyde carrot family, of which giant hogweed is a member, has edible plants such as angelica, coriander, fennel, pennywort, pignut and sweet cicely on one side, but ground elder, plus the poisonous fool’s parsley, hemlock water dropwort and the deadly hemlock on the other.

Three cheers to Wimbledon for turning away Lewis Hamilton because he wasn’t wearing a jacket and tie when he tried to enter the Royal Box at the men’s final. Our great racing driver may have made an unfortunate mistake, but the great summer sports in Britain are all the better for a bit of old-fashioned decorum. MH