Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Toxic Plant Invasion

Berce du Caucase, Giant Hogweed, Heracleum mantegazzianum

Ambroisie , Ambrosia artimisiifolia, Common Ragweed

Toxic Plant Invasion in the Alpes Maritimes & the Var

Two ‘exotic’ species of plants, likely to cause severe allergies, have taken root in the Alpes Maritimes and the Var

The two plants, which thrive at the expense of native species, are a danger to public health in some people by triggering severe allergies.

The largest annual in Europe with a potential to grow to four metres La Berce du Caucase or Giant Hogweed1 (Heracleum mantegazzianum) can cause severe burns if the sap comes in contact with the skin which is then exposed to the sun. The other, which can reach a metre high, is Ambroisie or Common Ragweed2 (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) can cause severe hay-fever, conjunctivitis and even asthma with its pollen.

Giant Hogweed is threatening the Gorges du Verdon

The hogweed, which can grow to more than a metre in diametre, was introduced into Central Europe in the 19th century (as so many invasive plants have been) as an ornamental plant. Planted in the 1960s by an English colonel in a garden in Thorenc (06) it escaped into the surrounding countryside. Having successfully acclimatised in the Grasse hinterland, it started to grow prolifically in the mid 2000s. Today it has crossed the departmental boundaries of the Var and the Alpes de Haute Provence and is a threat to the Gorges du Verdon and its thousands of visitors.

Common Ragweed’s Latin name and French – l’Ambroisie – after the mythical food of the gods of Olympus, landed on French soil in the middle of the 19th century, probably in seeds that came from the United States. This plant thrives soil that has been turned over so proliferated in the 1950s with all the building and development. It colonised the Rhône Alpes region, spreading west and southwards.

Common Ragweed planted around Mas

Ragweed was introduced into the Alpes Maritimes in 2005 when was sown around the town of Mas (06), in contaminated seed, to create grassland habitat for game fowl.

In the Var, areas of ragweed have been noted in Bas Verdon, Solliès Pont and Lorgues.

On 13 April French parliament created a committee to monitor the spread of invasive species. However, locally finance is lacking and the methods of eradication appear ineffective.

The last clearup by volunteers of Giant Hogweed, took place around the Lac de Thorenc in June. Unfortunately, due to lack of appropriate equipment, some of the volunteers succumbed to burns from the sap.

1 Giant Hogweed is also sometimes called Giant Cow Parsley

2 Common Ragweed is also known as Annual Ragweed, Bitterweed, Blackweed, Carrot Weed, Hay Fever Weed, Roman Wormwood, Stammerwort, Stickweed, Tassel Weed, Wild Tansy, and American Wormwood

de la part de Gabrielle W

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