Giant Hogweed was spotted today in the East Worthing Chesswood allotments by eagle-eyed resident John Clark. The invasive plant joins another hostile intruder in the allotments – Japanese Knotweed.
Mr Clark has kept an eye on the progress of both Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed on Worthing Borough Council (WBC) land over the last few years. He reports both are now present on Chesswood allotments at the end of Pages Lane in East Worthing as well as on fenced-off WBC land north of Brooklands Park.
Giant Hogweed sap can cause blistering and scarring of the skin and in severe cases blindness. Sap is released when the plant is cut or by brushing against the plant. Contact with the sap causes skin to become sensitive to sunlight, resulting in painful blisters which appear up to two days after contact and may reoccur for several years.
Japanese Knotweed spreads through its crown, rhizome (underground stem) and stem segments, rather than its seeds. The weed can grow a metre in a month and can cause heave below concrete and tarmac, coming up through the resulting cracks and damaging buildings and roads. Studies have shown that a 1cm section of rhizome can produce a new plant in 10 days. Rhizome segments can remain dormant in soil for twenty years before producing new plants.
Mr Clark said: “In January of this year, I used Public Question Time to bring to the attention of the councillors, problems with the invasive non-native species Japanese Knotweed and flooding.
“To date the Councilors have not been provided with a copy of the council’s answers to my question and there is refusal to consider my request as a Freedom of Information or Environmental Information request because I have asked for the information to be verified by the councilors (i.e. see an actual object or provided with a picture of an object to confirm existence).”
The Worthing Borough Council website states Japanese Knotweed is the responsibility of the landowner or tenant of the land. The website goes on to say: “The local Council and Environment Agency are not obliged to control Knotweed on behalf of other landowners. If the Knotweed is affecting your land the best solution is to co-operate with your neighbours to try and control the problem together, by sharing costs and labour, for instance. Wherever possible it is best to encourage co-operation and support within the community to control and prevent any further spread of the weed.”
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 states that it is an offence to “plant or otherwise cause to grow in the wild” any plant listed in Schedule nine, Part II of the Act. This lists over 30 plants including Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed. The police are responsible for investigating this offence and each police force has a wildlife liaison officer who can be contacted.
The Environment Agency are responsible for ensuring that Knotweed waste is managed and disposed of in accordance with the Knotweed code of practice.
Pictured: Giant Hogweed growing on Worthing river bank between Deacon Way and Easting Close