A TOXIC plant has been spotted growing across the region - and councils in County Durham and Darlington have explained what to do if you spot it.

The 'dangerous' Giant Hogweed, which can cause severe burning and even temporary blindness, is now in season where it is expected to "thrive and spread."

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

The plant is also understood to pose a danger to animals, including dogs, who may come into close contact and suffer a reaction.

Read more: Map shows where Giant Hogweed is growing across the North East

It comes as a map which details the 'hotspots' of Giant Hogweed, listing where exactly the plant was found, has been published.

But two councils have explained what residents and visitors should do if they spot the plant growing.

The Northern Echo:

The plant, which produces a harmful sap, can grow in excess of 12ft

Jeff Talbot, clean and green manager at Durham County Council, urged the public not to go near suspected Giant Hogweed.

He said: “Hogweed is a particularly dangerous plant and our advice to the public is not to go near or touch it."

Setting out what steps residents should take, Mr Talbot urged members of the public to report any sightings on public land to the council.

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

He said: “Anyone who thinks they have seen hogweed growing in a public area of the county can contact us via our website.

“We will record this on our register and, as with all dangerous and invasive species found on public land, will look to treat and remove it. 

“We control problem plants on land that we own or are responsible for managing, such as road verges, but responsibility for control on private land, including along watercourses, lies with individual landowners."

The Northern Echo:

The plant can cause severe burning and blistering of the skin

Darlington Borough Council said that council staff continue to treat areas where it is aware of the toxic plant and has signs up to warn people nearby.

A council spokesperson said it would inspect areas where residents report sightings of the plant.

They said: “We would also encourage members of the public to let us know if they notice or suspect a plant may be Giant Hogweed and we will inspect the area. If confirmed it will be treated.

"You can report the plant by sending details of the location by email to us at customerservices@darlington.gov.uk.“ 

According to the map, published by WhatShed based on data provided to the Biological Records Centre, these following locations were regarded as particular hotspots.

County Durham

Chester-le-Street, Riverside Park

Chester-le-Street near, Ropery Lane and Lumley New Road

Durham, Belmont Viaduct

Durham, near Chapel Heights

Durham, land near Orchard Drive

Durham, Frankland Lane

Durham, Framwelgate Waterside near Pennyferry Bridge

Durham, near Crook Hall and Gardens

Durham, The Sands

Durham, river near Prebends Bridge

Bishop Auckland, near North Bondgate and Batts Terrace 

Newton Aycliffe, near Woodham Burn


Skerne Park

South Park

Land near Chesnut Street

Land on Haughton Road near Darlington College

Middleton One Row, land near The Front 

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.