'Bloody painful': Many Toronto parks contain dangerous giant hogweed

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In Scarborough’s Guildwood area this month, Indira Mangalie pulled what she thought was Queen Anne’s Lace from her back yard.

She wore gloves but blisters still formed on her hands, arms and legs. The itching wouldn’t stop.

On Friday, July 17, the large blister on her forearm burst and was “bloody painful,” said Mangalie who now realizes the plants – which stood taller than she does – were giant hogweed.

She had seen them before along trails in nearby Greyabbey Park, but City of Toronto workers last year had told her giant hogweed wasn’t found there.

After Mangalie’s two puppies had chewed on the stems and vomited, she decided to remove the hogweed, an invasive plant whose sap burns skin, causing effects which can last years.

The city encourages people to report suspected giant hogweed and tells people how to distinguish it from other plants, such as Queen Anne’s Lace and cow parsnip, which can look similar.

Because hogweed is widespread along Toronto waterways, Parks, Forestry and Recreation says it’s “unable to remove every individual plant” reported on park properties. In some places, pesticides will be used, or areas fenced off.

Parks in Etobicoke and York where giant hogweed has been found are Homesmith, Kingsmill, Elmcrest, Bloordale, Etienne Brule and Magwood.

In North York, the dangerous plant is found in multiple spots in the East Don Parklands, and in Charles Sariol, E.T. Seaton, Wilket Creek, and Creekside parks.

In East York and old Toronto, it’s been in Taylor Creek Park and in several spots on the Lower Don Trail.

So far, the only Scarborough park where the city identified hogweed is Warden Woods, where warning signs are posted.