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Giant Hogweed invades New West

A giant hogweed plant has sprouted up on a vacant lot in Connaught Heights near the 22nd Street SkyTrain station. - Grant Granger/NewsLeader
A giant hogweed plant has sprouted up on a vacant lot in Connaught Heights near the 22nd Street SkyTrain station.
— image credit: Grant Granger/NewsLeader

What Charlotte Barton saw as the SkyTrain pulled into the 22nd Street Station one afternoon has the city issuing a warning to area residents.

Barton’s been riding the rails for 27 years commuting to her job in a Downtown Vancouver law office. She’s always looking out the windows and keeping her eyes peeled. The surroundings always fascinate her, even though she’s frequently the only one aboard not transfixed by a handheld device.

What she saw in a vacant lot just northwest of the station caught her eye. Popping out of the scrub stretching to the sky were these tall stems with large white flower heads.

“I did a little double take,” said Barton.

Her eagle eyes had spotted Giant Hogweed. It’s a plant where even brushing against it can cause severe burns and blistering. Its clear sap and hairs are corrosive.

The plant can grow as high as five metres and its flower heads can produce about 50,000 seeds a year.

Although the plant was next to a chain link fence surrounded by scrub brush and prickle bushes, the sight bothered Barton.

“People walk their dogs near there. Little kids could get hurt, dogs could get hurt, it’s really open and accessible,” said Barton.

Two years ago, Giant Hogweed was spotted in Queensborough.

“The way the prevailing winds blow here, [the seeds] could have easily blown across from Queensborough. It’s in the right spot,” said Barton.

Kristian Davis of the city’s engineering department said the hogweed is on private land. He added the owner will be notified with an order to remove it.

“We usually want to get rid of it right away,” said Davis. “It’s a bit of an ordeal to get rid of it.”

The city suggests getting a professional to remove it because it requires protective, waterproof clothing, gloves and safety goggles. It also has to be double bagged and shouldn’t be composted.

Davis said Giant Hogweed was found recently south of the SkyTrain tracks on River Drive. It was on Ministry of Transportation property and the province removed it.

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