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Project aims to control spread of Giant Hogweed on River Loobagh

Limerick City and County Councils have embarked on a three year project to control the spread of Giant Hogweed on the River Loobagh near Kilmallock.

The plant, which can grow up to five metres in height, is one of the most unwanted invasive species in Ireland.  Introduced into Ireland and Britain in the 19th century as a Victorian Garden curiosity, it “escaped” into the wild firstly in the Dublin area. But now it grows in over 1,300 locations around the country, especially along river banks and other areas of damp ground.

It is a public health hazard due to its toxic sap, which causes severe dermatitis. If sap from the plant were to get into your eye it could make you blind.

Giant Hogweed is spread by seeds with each plant capable of producing up 50,000 seeds. There is an EU wide ban on the sale, growing and keeping of this plant.

A team of experts has been working to cut the flowering heads off the plants in an area on the River Loobagh, but local authorities are keen to get the public involved, and a campaign will be launched later this month.

Dr Frances Giaquinto, a Chartered Environmentalist, is appealing to landowners along the river bank area to check their gardens for Giant Hogweed.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, she said that because the plant is dispersed by seed, it is essential to start at the top of the catchment and work systematically down.  She says the team can do that, but if there are pockets of flowering plants that they do not know about, such as on private land, then eradication cannot be achieved.  “We’re appealing to people to look in their backgardens or fields, and if you see a plant that looks like this, please contact the council. It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong, we can come and look. If you give us permission, we can start to take action to eradicate it,” she said.

Nick Head, an Invasive Species Contractor, says the plant is quite extensive in Ireland.  Speaking on the same programme, he said it spreads by seed, so the main way of getting rid of it is to eliminate the seed bank.  He said the majority of reports say the seed bank lasts for up to three years – with some reports claiming it lasts up to seven years.  “As far as I know, it’s in every river and tributary coming down into the Shannon from Fermanagh, so it’s a big problem. It’s in areas where native vegetation is being overtaken for nearly a kilometre, and there’s no other growth except for this plant,” he said.

Source – RTE News

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