Moray campaigners are calling on the Scottish Government to fine landowners who do not control harmful plants that are “killing the countryside”.
Innes Community Council says the banks of the River Spey are infested with “noxious” plots of overgrown giant hogweed and Japanese knotweed.
The group has now lodged a petition with the Scottish Parliament asking that any landowner who refuses to tackle the harmful weeds be penalised.
The Crown Estate – which owns the land along the Spey – said it was trying to control the infestation along its banks.
But community council chairman, James Mackie, said the problem was a growing national epidemic – and only legislation could help resolve it.
He said: “These plants are completely out of control, and it’s getting worse and worse.
“If tighter controls against landowners were in place, the problem would recede quickly and permanently.”
Mr Mackie added: “Plants like hogweed and Japanese knot weed just take over massive areas and as they spread out they choke out all the native plants that had been there.”
The petition will appear on an online Scottish Government database for six weeks, during which time people can comment with their opinions.
It will then be considered by the parliament’s petitions committee, who will investigate its merits and decide whether to move it forward.
Lansana Bangura worked as a water bailiff along the Spey until February, and said his face would regularly swell up as a result of the plants.
He explained: “When these plants get big they get very big, and try as I might it could be very hard to completely avoid contact with them.
“It was very unpleasant, but I was given medication to help reduce the swelling.
“These plants can have a very serious impact on younger people though, it can be much worse for them.”
The Spey Foundation has calculated that in the three miles of banks on the River Spey between Fochabers and the sea, 120 acres of 800 acres are contaminated by invasive non-native species.
A Crown Estate spokesman said: “We consider the protection and enhancement of the environment as a core part of our duty.
“Earlier this year we agreed to part-fund a project by the Spey Foundation which will initiate control of Giant Hogweed in priority areas of the lower Spey.”