A MAP showing the hotspots of a highly toxic plant which can cause severe burning and temporary blindness has been released.

Dozens of areas known for having issues with Giant Hogweed have been identified across the North East and North Yorkshire.

The 'dangerous' plant, which can reach heights of more than 12ft if not removed, is now in season where it is expected to "thrive and spread."

Officially known as Heracleum mantegazzianum, the toxic plant is often found in woodland, river banks, nature reserves, parks - and even domestic gardens and allotments.

The Northern Echo:

The Northern Echo:

According to a map, parts of County Durham, Darlington and Teesside have reported suffering from the problem plant.

On Teesside, several locations have been identified as areas where Giant Hogweed has been reported including at the Portrack Marsh Nature Reserve.

Meanwhile in County Durham, areas including Newton Aycliffe, Bishop Auckland, Durham City and Chester-le-Street have also made reports.

Read more: Council 'investigating' reports of Giant Hogweed in Sunderland park

Because the map shows exactly where such instances have been reported, it shows that in Durham City the plant has been in The Sands, and along the river by Prebends Bridge. 

Although a map has been released, it is likely the plant could also pop up in other areas, especially as the warmer weather continues - the perfect conditions.

'Britain's most dangerous plant'

That has prompted Mini First Aid to issue a warning to everyone, especially parents, urging them to avoid going near the plant at all costs. 

A spokesperson said: "Now is the season for 'Britain's most dangerous plant' and with the lovely weather forecast in a couple of weeks time, this stuff will thrive and spread.

"All parents, please warn your children not to touch the plant as the leaves, stems, roots, flowers and seeds all contain this terrible poisonous toxin.

"Any parts of the body that come into contact with the sap of a giant hogweed should be immediately washed with soap and cold water and seek medical advice.

"Further exposure to sunlight should be avoided for at least 48 hours."

The Northern Echo:

The Northern Echo:

Burns and blisters

Last year, a mother was left horrified after her ten-year-old son suffered nasty injuries following a walk through woodland.

Nicky Thomas had been walking with her son, William through Owley Woods in Weaverham in Cheshire when he came into contact with the plant.

Her son had suffered painful blisters to his fingers and hands and had suffered a reaction many professionals are so fearful about.

At the time, she told The Northwich Guardian that her son had to make four visits to hospital, including taking a course of steriods, following contact.

But Healthline has further explained what people who come into contact with Giant Hogweed need to do. 

It said that a person affected should seek medical attention if a rash or blister begins to form on the affected area.

It said: “Skin irritation that’s caught early might be treated with a steroid cream and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, to relieve pain.

“Severe burns could require surgery to graft new skin over the damaged skin.”

Healthline also explains that the giant hogweed sap can damage more than just your skin - if the sap gets in your eyes, you can experience either temporary or permanent blindness.

Similarly, breathing in sap particles can result in respiratory problems.

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How to know what is Giant Hogweed

The Woodland Trust outlines the appearance of giant hogweed so that you can better identify the dangerous plant - they are:

- Stems: the stems are green with purple blotches and stiff, white hairs. The stems are hollow with ridges and a thick circle of hair at the base of each leaf stalk

- Leaves: the leaves are huge, and can measure up to 1.5m wide and 3m long, and are often divided into smaller leaflets. The Woodland Trust compares them to rhubarb leaves, with irregular and jagged edges, with the underside of the leaf being described as hairy

- Flowers: the flowers of the giant hogweed appear in June and July, and are small and white and appear in clusters on “umbrella-like heads” that face upwards

- Seeds: the seeds are dry, flattened and an oval shape, almost 1cm long and tan in colour with brown lines

You can tell the difference between giant hogweed and regular hogweed by looking at the leaves - regular hogweed leaves are going to be more rounded versus the jagged edges of giant hogweed leaves.

Similarly, you might confuse giant hogweed with cow parsley - cow parsley can only grow about 3-4ft, unlike giant hogweed which can reach staggering heights of almost 12 ft.

Cow parsley also has smaller florets and broader leaves that are, again, much more rounded than the jagged leaves of giant hogweed.

Hogweed must be removed professionally  

Due to the nature of the plant it remains illegal to import, transport, keep, breed, sell, use or exchange, grow or cultivate, Giant Hogweed.

If you come across it in your garden or allotment, you must be extremely careful as to how it is disposed of.

There is no statutory obligation for landowners to get rid of giant hogweed, but the Government website states ways of legal disposal.

It says you must either use a registered waste carrier, send it to an authorised or suitable disposal site or contact the council to help arrange disposal.

When dealing with giant hogweed, the Royal Horticultural Society says: “When controlling giant hogweed, always wear gloves, cover your arms and legs, and ideally wear a face mask when working on or near it.

“Cut plant debris, contaminated clothing and tools are potentially hazardous too.”

To view the map - click here