H is for Hogweed, particularly the giant version.
Until quite recently I didn't really know anything about giant Hogweed, so I guess there may be a few other people who don't either.
Giant Hogweed was introduced into this country as a 'filler' for large gardens but has since spread agressively. It is most commonly found along riverbanks and this is where I came across it. Your average Hogweed plant can cause skin rashes but the thing about Giant Hogweed is that it's sap can cause quite serious skin problems.
Giant Hogweed has spread along the river bank where I like to take the kids. Someone had been out there cutting it down before it seeded. My sister managed to brush against one of the severed stalks. Now, we knew that it could cause burning on the skin but didn't realise quite how it worked, so my sister assumed it was a temporary affect and that it would wear off. When she looked it up on the internet we discovered there's a whole 'other story' to this evil weed.
The sap destroys the skin's natural sun protection which means that every time the affected area is exposed to the sun it continues to burn. The area on my sister's hand rapidly developed into blisters even though she began covering the area when we had read up on it.
The blisters in this picture aren't a patch on what my sister had on her hand, I think her's will probably scar.
Can you imagine the implications of children using the stalks as swords or worse still telescopes? The thought horrifies me. I can't believe we aren't more aware of the problem and have even considered asking the head at my kids' school to talk to the kids about it.
For more information (and credit for the photos) visit http://126.96.36.199/hogweed/index.htm
And to join in with ABC Wednesday go here http://abcwednesdayround3.blogspot.com/2008/09/h-is-for.html