This is more of a heads-up than an alert, but it would be prudent for superintendents and other golf course personnel to watch for the appearance of giant hogweed, which can grow as high as five metres, has sharp leaves and a prickly, purple-spotted stem.
Hogweed can send out tens of thousands of seeds when it flowers, so it can spread, grow aggressively and survive in most parts of the country.
Contact with the plant’s sap can cause blistering and blindness if it gets near the eyes, so there are obvious ramifications for golf courses where the plant appears as it has in Toronto’s Don Valley, the Halton Region west of the city and near Ottawa.
Since media stories about hogweed began appearing recently, city halls and municipalities have received plenty of phone calls with possible sightings of the plant, but most are false alarms, which is why it is wise to approach the possibility of hogweed with prudence, not panic.
According to Jeff Alexander, the president of the Ontario Golf Superintendents’ Association, there have been no reported sightings from golf courses.
“I talk to a lot of colleagues and I have a pretty good rapport with the members and I haven’t heard anything,” said Alexander, who works at the Parry Sound Golf and Country Club.
“I’m sure if any of my colleagues came across it or there was a concern at any golf course, they would have contacted (the association). You know superintendents – we talk like crazy,” said Alexander, who was at an association gathering earlier this week.
“We usually talk a little bit of shop and there was nothing said. We get alerts from our sales reps. If there’s been a report, they’ll send out an alert to their database,” he added.
Communication is the best way to handle the possibility of hogweed at this point. Stay vigilant and if you see what you suspect to be giant hogweed, rope the area off and contact local authorities, as well as your regional association for proper identification and the best way to deal with the problem.