Member Trust, Tweed Forum, has recruited a team of abseilers to help it tackle one of the region’s most virulent pests – Giant Hogweed. The invasive plant can grow up to 16ft tall and has toxic sap which can cause severe burns and blistering if it comes into contact with the skin, so must be treated with extreme care. When it dies back in winter, Giant Hogweed also leaves large patches of bare soil which cause riverbank erosion and increase flood risk. It is one of three invasive species targeted by Tweed Forum each year in one of the UK’s largest and most successful invasive plant control programmes. Japanese Knotweed and American Skunk Cabbage will also be tackled in the coming weeks and months in an effort to improve river safety and access and to protect the Tweed Catchment’s native biodiversity. Invasive plant species spread rapidly, are notoriously difficult to eradicate and pose a serious threat to the UK’s native plants. Each year, Tweed Forum’s Invasive Species team walks hundreds of miles of watercourses and deals with thousands of invasive plants in order to protect local ecosystems, communities and tourist industries. The project is supported by the Scottish Natural Heritage Biodiversity Challenge Fund. Last month, with its two-man abseiling team, Tweed Forum has been tackling Giant Hogweed in difficult-to-access areas of the Whiteadder near Paxton. The team aims to chemically treat every plant before it flowers as each can then produce between 30,000 and 80,000 seeds which are capable of surviving in the soil for up to 15 years. Every plant treated is documented using a handheld GPS device so that the species’ distribution can be clearly mapped and resources carefully targeted along the entire Tweed catchment. Tweed Forum Director, Luke Comins, said; “The help of the Borders community in reporting sightings of these dangerous plants, and in many cases giving donations and volunteering their time, has enabled us to make a huge difference in tackling the problem along the Tweed Catchment and is making the prospect of eradication a reality. We hope that farmers, anglers and the general public will be vigilant again this year and inform us of any sightings so that this important work can continue.” It is thought that invasive plant species were introduced into the Tweed catchment in the early 19th century through private exotic botanical collections and the textile industry, where seeds from plant species from all over the world arrived on sheep fleece and were deposited in the water. The river then acted as the main transportation network for the plants, which were able to outcompete native species and dominate the countryside. Anyone who spots an invasive plant species in the Tweed Forum catchment, should call the Tweed Forum on 01896 849723. If you're a landowner outside of this area, please contact the Environment Agency. For further reading, take a look at this comprehensive guide on the RHS website about invasive species in your garden and how to tackle them.