GIANT hogweed has invaded the banks of the Avon Water.

Its notorious ability to spread means it’s unlawful to plant it in the wild and its toxic sap causes ‘burning’ blisters on human skin.

Landowners are joining forces with Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust to stop it spreading.

“We have fought against the giant hogweed since 2010,” says Catherine Chatters, the trust’s New Forest non-native plants officer.

“But more money is urgently required if we are to continue the battle effectively this year.”

Once a riverbank has become dominated by giant hogweed it becomes virtually impossible to manage.

And as giant hogweed stems are hollow, children are at risk of nasty blistering on their faces if they use the stems as pretend telescopes or peashooters.

For the past few years The New Forest Non-Native Plants Project has funded treatment by professional contractors using approved herbicide along the banks of the Avon Water but now, with drastic cut-backs to public funding, other sources of money need to be found.

Ms Chatters added: “Each giant hogweed plant is capable of producing 50,000 seeds so it is vitally important the control work continues.

“If we stop now and allow the hogweed plants to produce seed, we could be back at square one in no time at all.”

Anyone interested in sponsoring the battle against giant hogweed can email or call 07770 923315.