TRIBUTE has been paid to the public for the part it's playing in a battle to rid the area's rivers of a dangerous plant.

Keighley-based YORgreencic says "priceless" information from residents is central to tackling Giant Hogweed, and other invasive non-native species such as Japanese Knotweed.

The environmental organisation has been working with communities since 2014 to control the plants along rivers and other water courses.

Treatment of Giant Hogweed takes place between April and June.

Shaun O’Hare – for YORgreencic – says although the plant itself is killed, seeds may lay dormant so a strict annual application of herbicides is required over a number of years.

Giant Hogweed’s sap can irritate the skin, causing blisters and rashes and other potential complications.

"Giant Hogweed is a large herbaceous plant and one of the most harmful to human health," he adds.

"It is a serious concern within our river corridors.

"Young plants often go unnoticed within vegetation, but as the plant reaches maturity it may grow to five metres and produce tens of thousands of seeds.

"The biggest example of Giant Hogweed we've found was close to where Eastburn Beck empties into the River Aire. Spotted by a local resident and bird watcher, the plant was nearing two metres tall."

The team turns its attention to treating Japanese Knotweed in September.

Treatments have been carried out on Bridgehouse Beck and the River Worth.

"There were several hotspots on the River Worth off Pitt Street and leading up to Woodhouse which have been treated over several years," said Mr O'Hare. "Those areas of knotweed have now been eradicated."

He says that whilst the work is funded by the Environment Agency and co-ordinated by the River Stewardship Company, the public is the "secret weapon" that makes the programme a success by reporting the location of plants.

Mr O'Hare added: "Collecting reliable and accurate data helps focus resources and achieve the goals of the treatment.

"The local information we get from residents and dog walkers and through angling clubs is priceless.

"The work is carried out by paid seasonal workers, who have volunteered for YORgreencic over the years and are now fully qualified in herbicide control.

"We want those who volunteer to gain by being active with us. The programme is not only helping to reduce non-native species, it is also providing training opportunities and skills development leading to formal accreditation and paid work."