It may be that, as the 1970 press reports put it, we are seeing another "vintage year" for this plant, which has made it more likely roaming children, pet walkers and others are going to encounter it. And it's possible that youngsters are less clued up in 2015 than they were in the previous about the risks of plants they might encounter in their wanderings - partially since kids wander and play independently a lot less than they made use of to, and partly due to the fact that moms and dads' understanding of plants - the good and the bad - is very restricted (or "plant loss of sight", as it's been called).
Harmful plant specialist John Robertson has another theory which deserves consideration, too: that plants produce furocoumarins to combat attack from a root fungus, so they may not still be present in the plants.
Either way, huge hogweed certainly isn't a plant for the little household garden or play park: if you do wish to eradicate it, there's good advice from the RHS here. And it's worth enlightening kids that plants need to be treated with caution and regard: the more plants they can recognize, the simpler it is to avoid the risks.
All the headlines may be dedicated to huge hogweed right now; it's worth noting that there are dozens of plants commonly discovered in British gardens and parks that can be damaging to health, from death by monkshood (Aconitum capellus) poisoning to skin burns from toxic euphorbia sap and pyracantha triggering plant thorn arthritis in joints. And any individual planning to forage in the countryside for edible plants ought to take certain care with the umbellifer family, of which giant hogweed is a member: they are easily puzzled by the untrained eye.
As the name recommends, huge hogweed is tall - as much as 5m in height. Bear in mind it can be much smaller sized than this if it has been cut back or if it has actually not yet reached maturity, which takes 2 years.
The leaves are very large and dramatically divided with bristles below.
The umbrella-shaped flower head depends on 80cm across and white or occasionally pinkish.
Fully grown stems are hollow, 5-10cm diameter and blotched with purple.