A warning has been issued over a toxic weed that has been spotted growing in Bexley and Greenwich after reports a child suffered third-degree burns from touching its leaves.

Giant hogweed, known scientifically as Heracleum mantegazzianum, is a plant similar to cow parsley which originates from Russia. It has large leaves and white petals when it flowers.

It can reach more than three metres in height and its sap is known to cause burns when it comes into contact with human skin.

According to the Royal Horticultural Society, the plant spreads by seed, and thrives in summer.

It is said to be uncommon in the UK, but can be spotted near streams and river banks.

As well as the damage to skin, hogweed is said to cause blindness if it comes into contact with the eyes.

According to Plant Tracker, a website that maps sightings of plants, there are 2,293 reported sightings of hogweed in the UK.

Reports have circulated online about hogweed plants being spotted across Bexley and Greenwich, and the public have been warned to avoid any contact with the plant if it is spotted.

Anyone who thinks they might have hogweed growing on their land is advised to dig it out and throw it on a compost heap or burn it. Gardeners are advised to wear gloves and cover their arms and legs when dealing with the plant.

If you think you have come into contact with a hogweed plant, you are advised to seek medical attention immediately.