Giant Hogweed is a public health risk and a very invasive species that if left to seed can take over riverbanks posing a risk to walkway users and biodiversity. For the past three years, the Trust has been carrying out a research project with Napier University about alternatives to the use of herbicide for controlling plants and managing it spread between Slateford – Currie (most upstream plant on the river). This year as a favour to the council the Trust has also managed to treat the plants between Slateford and Leith, as due to the Covid pandemic the council could not allocate staff to treat plants in areas off the main walkway.
The river has been a real-life for people taking daily exercise during lockdown. Due to social distancing people have been using informal paths all over the river banks potentially coming into contact with the plant. Exposure to Giant Hogweed sap results in burns that leave skin sensitive to sunlight for years, throat swelling and blindness. It has taken 15 days for a trained member of staff and one other volunteer to waded 10 miles of river. Every plant that was treated has been mapped so that we can learn more about the distribution along the river. In total there were 2350 plants. We have left some plants that were near an active Kingfisher nest and Badger set. We hope to get to these plants once it is safe to do so. A massive thank you to everyone that has helped.