PEOPLE across the North East are being warned about the dangers of a highly toxic plant which can cause burning and temporary blindness.

Giant hogweed has been identified in dozens of area across the North East and North Yorkshire.

People can find out where the toxic plant, which is non-native and can reach heights of more than 12ft if not removed, has been spotted in the region by checking an online map.

The plant flowers in June and July, when small white, or slightly pink, blooms appear in clusters on umbrella-like heads.

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According to the map, produced by What Shed, parts of County Durham, Darlington and Teesside have reported suffering from the problem plant.

The Northern Echo:

In Darlington, giant hogweed has been reported in South Park, Skerne Park, near the Teesside University campus in Darlington and close to the River Skerne near Northgate.

It has also been reported at three locations near the River Tees around Middleton St George.

There have been numerous reports further down the Tees in Teesside, with sightings of the plant in Yarm, Eaglescliffe, Thornaby, Portrack Marsh Nature Reserve.

Meanwhile in County Durham, areas including Newton Aycliffe, Bishop Auckland and Chester-le-Street.

And there have been nine sightings of the plant along the River Wear in Durham between Prebends Bridge and The Sands.

It has also been spotted in North Yorkshire, in Leyburn and around Catterick and Bedale.

The interactive map is based on data provided by members of the public, with records passed to the Biological Records Centre’s iRecord system.

Once the sighting is verified by an expert the data is added to the official iRecord so that the data can be made available, What Shed says.

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The Tees Rivers Trust, which looks after the River Tees and its tributaries, is on a mission to tackle the invasive alien species.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, with support from local organisations, the trust wants to not only remove giant hogweed, but reintroduce native flora, and raise awareness of dangers of the plant.

Chloe Lawrence, project officer at Tees Rivers Trust said: “We want the River Tees and its tributaries to be a safe and accessible amenity for everyone in the catchment.

“Giant hogweed is a huge threat to this, as well as the detrimental impact it has on our native species which is why it is so important to control it.

“Our mission is crucial, not only to inform people on the dangers of giant hogweed, but also raise awareness about how it can be controlled.”

The Northern Echo:

Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), native to the Caucasus mountains in southwest Russia and Georgia, can grow up to 5m tall, has sharply serrated leaves, and green and purple splotchy stems.

Each plant can produce 20,000-50,000 seeds, which results in the plant taking over large areas of land.

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As it has no natural predators in the UK, it is significantly reducing biodiversity of native species.

The plant is also making it difficult and dangerous to access the river as it has phototoxic sap that is dangerous and harmful to humans causing blisters and burns if touched by bare skin.

Tees Rivers Trust has been creating partnerships with landowners, communities, and organisations such as What3Words to raise awareness and control this invasive species across the whole of the Tees. Members have been working closely with schools to inform children about the dangers of the plant and how to identify it, to minimise the risk when out walking along the rivers.

To get involved in this project, contact Tees Rivers Trust via or call 07900 650371.

To view the map - click here 

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