A NATIONAL trade body is urging people to be wary around a toxic weed that is set to take hold this summer.

The Property Care Association (PCA) has warned that Giant Hogweed can be extremely toxic to the skin in sunlight, making it a danger to public health.

Contact with the plant in sunny weather can cause discomfort and severe blistering, which can become a long-term condition.

Professor Max Wade, chairman of the PCA’s invasive weed control group, said: "Giant Hogweed is turning out to be a problem again this summer.

"It is really important that the plant's toxic sap does not come into contact with skin in the sunlight.

"An added concern is the fact that when it comes into contact with items such as clothing and equipment, it can be transferred via touch, so it can possibly affect somebody else."

Professor Wade advised that if contact is made with the plant, the affected area should be covered from sunlight and the skin washed with water as quickly as possible.

The plant can grow up to three metres high and has a large, white, flowering head. It has sharply serrated or divided leaves which can grow up to 2 metres with bristles on the underside.

The stem is usually covered in bristles and has blotchy purple markings.

The PCA has produced a guidance note on "Managing Giant Hogweed," available on their website, along with a list of companies who specialise in controlling invasive plant species.