ECOLOGISTS in the Borders are fighting back against a destructive invading plant.

And they have recruited abseilers in their bid to bring an end to giant hogweed and .

Since giant hogweed arrived in the region almost 200 years ago as seeds within sheep fleeces, it has become a persistent pest.

As well as growing up to 16 feet and threatening delicate eco-systems, it causes riverbank erosion and increased flood risks.

And its toxic sap can also cause severe burns and blistering if touched.

Giant hogweed is one of three species being tackled by the Tweed Forum in one of the UK’s largest and most successful invasive plant control programmes.

Tweed Forum director Luke Comins wants Borderers to play their part by reporting sightings of giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed and American skunk cabbage.

He said; “The help of the Borders community in reporting sightings of these dangerous plants, and in many cases giving donations and volunteering their time, has enabled us to make a huge difference in tackling the problem along the Tweed catchment and is making the prospect of eradication a reality.

"We hope that farmers, anglers and the general public will be vigilant again this year and inform us of any sightings so that this important work can continue.”

A two-man abseiling team were deployed last week to reach the difficult-to-access areas along the Tweed and its catchment with chemical treatments to prevent flowering.

The team aims to prevent each hogweed plant producing between 30,000 and 80,000 seeds which are capable of surviving in the soil for up to 15 years.

Every plant treated is documented using a handheld GPS device so that the species’ distribution can be mapped and resources carefully targeted along the entire area.

Each year, the Tweed Forum’s Invasive Species team walks hundreds of miles of watercourses and deals with thousands of invasive plants in order to protect local ecosystems, communities and tourist industries.

The project is supported by the Scottish Natural Heritage Biodiversity Challenge Fund.