THE DREADED GIANT HOGWEED PLANT IN ENGLAND. ALIEN PLANT OR PUTIN’S CURSE ON THE UK?

Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘to blame’ for Giant Hogweed invading UK

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin is to blame for the spread of the toxic Giant Hogweed plant in the UK, it has been claimed.

A scientist claims Russia is to blame for the UK being unable to deal with giant hogweed

Despite decades of research biologists are yet to find an effective weapon agains the invasive species, whose poisonous sap recently hospitalised a dog walker and a ten-year-old girl.

But they believe a rust fungus found in Georgia, where the weed originally comes from, may hold the answer to stopping the plant which can cause severe burns, blisters and even blindness.

In the early 2000s scientists went to Georgia but their efforts were hampered by conflict with Russia, where Putin had just become president for the first time.

Under Putin’s hostile leadership, relations between the two countries radically deteriorated, ultimately leading to the outbreak of war eight years later in the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia – making Georgia a no-go area for the scientific community.

Dr Dick Shaw, a British biologist leading research into Giant Hogweed, explained: “There have been areas that for a long time we could not access because of trouble in the area, but now they are opening up again.”

The scientist is the Europe and Americas coordinator of invasive species research for CABI, an international agriculture and environmental organisation based in the UK.

Now finally, with an improved safety in Georiga and previously no-go zones now open to scientists, Dr Shaw believes the answer to fighting Giant Hogweed may be waiting to be discovered.

He said: “We are thinking of one of these areas that we couldn’t go to in Georgia, there was a type of rust fungus that has been identified we never found when we were there a decade ago.”

The scientist said he was surprised by how some people are unaware of the dangers posed by the Giant Hogweed to ramblers in the British countryside.

Lauren Fuller’s hands after the incident at Loch Lomond

It emerged yesterday that a 10-year-old girl was left with third-degree burns after using the plant to build a cubby house den.

Lauren Fuller, from Bristol, may need skin grafts to repair damage to her hands caused by the plant’s toxic sap.

This poor sweet little girl has been almost ‘devoured’ by the evil giant hogweed plant.

Meanwhile in Enfield, north London, a dog walker spent four days in hospital after suffering horrific burns to her legs.

Ann Quinlan, 56, was warned it may taken months for the weeping wounds left by fist-sized blisters to heal.

However the plant has claimed victims among even experienced botanists.

Giant Hogweed can cause serious burns

Dr Shaw told how on his team’s 2002 trip to Georgia many of the scientists collecting samples suffered burns.

He said: “There were people who knew what they were doing. They were wearing gloves up to their elbows, goggles and protective clothing but the sap is very potent and the poison lasts on clothing for days.”

According to the scientist there are thought to be hotspots of giant hogweed around Stevenage, although people still grow it in their gardens. It is currently illegal to buy in the UK.

The hogweed plant, which grows up to 18 feet tall, produces chemicals that alter the skin’s DNA, leaving it vulnerable to UV radiation in sunlight.

Victorian collectors first brought the ‘triffid’ back to Britain as a curiosity after discovering it in the Caucasus before it became an invasive species.

Scientists have discovered two potential methods of killing off the plant but have not been able to use them because of the potential damage to native plant species.

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