TRUE GRIPES: Love me, love my hogweed

It may be ugly, smelly and toxic, but it's this man's best friend
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The Independent Culture
I am sorry to report that my giant hogweed is suffering from persecution. Because I live in the inner city, I haven't got a garden, just concrete. The only thing growing in my back yard is this huge plant called the giant hogweed.

It stands alone and grim outside the bathroom window and resembles an enormous sprig of parsley. It has been there for years: it never seems to die and I haven't the heart to kill it. Even if I tried, I don't think I would have much success. The giant hogweed seems to thrive in concrete. If I chopped it off in one place, it would probably emerge somewhere else. It is the only plant I know that isn't the slightest bit bothered by slugs, snails and cats - or humans. Anybody who touches it risks getting anasty burn from its sap, which is why it is very handy having it outside the bathroom window - I'd like to see a burglar try to get past it unscathed. The giant hogweed almost seems to be saying: "Break in: make my day." What's more, the fearsome winds t hat blow under the nearby railway arches during the winter months have no effect whatsoever on the hogweed. It may bend under the assault, but it never breaks.

In short, it is a perfect plant for the city - except that nobody seems to like it. Gardening acquaintances say it is unaesthetic. What they really mean is that it isn't pretty. Well, all right, yes, I admit that. The only flowers it produces look like the frames of umbrellas. And it smells a bit funny, too. But it's big, and it's green: what more could you want? "Daisies," says my wife, "with nice frondly leaves waving gently in the breeze. Not that thing." She doesn't like my giant hogweed. In fact, she refuses to go out in the yard unaccompanied: she says the hogweed gives her the creeps.

Worse, I've just found out that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has it listed as a dangerous plant that I should have reported long ago. Apparently, it became illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. So now I'm waiting for thepersecution to begin. Maybe they'll send a death squad round to destroy it. Or perhaps they'll take it away in an armoured van - which will be a great shame because I've kind of got used to it being there.

Things won't seem the same. There will be a huge space in the back yard where the hogweed used to be and nothing bashing against the bathroom in the dead of night. And, as my wife points out: "If it weren't for that giant hogweed, you'd have no friends at all."

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