PARENTS and animal owners are being warned after tracts of one of the deadliest poison plants in the UK were exposed by storms along Scottish coasts and rivers.

The Scottish Government, the charity Animal Concern Action Line (ACAL), and Argyll and Bute Council, where a number of the roots of hemlock water dropwort have been found near where a dog died 20 minutes after eating the plant during the last deadly event, issued warnings.

Heavy rain, river spates and exceptionally high tides have eroded soil exposing the toxic roots and washing plants out of the ground.

The roots have been swept up on beaches and river banks in areas popular with dog walkers.

The plant is possibly the most dangerous indigenous plant in the country and is sometimes called the poison parsnip.

A council spokeswoman said parents and animal owners should be careful along shorelines.

"The council would advise the public to be vigilant whilst out walking their dogs and to be aware poisonous plants do grow wild in the UK.

"Do not touch or allow children or pets to come into contact with any plant growing wild you are unsure about.

"Hemlock water dropwort occurs naturally on the shoreline. Ordinarily the roots, or tubers, are not exposed.

"During stormy weather the roots are disturbed and exposed."

John Robins, of ACAL, has found dozens of roots on the beach at Cardross on the Clyde estuary and said it is "very likely" that other beaches, riverbanks and lochsides throughout the country will also be contaminated.

Mr Robins said: "Hemlock Water Dropwort is extremely poisonous and it is vital that dog and horse owners do not let their animals eat this plant.

"If you have a dog which picks up and chews things when out for a walk it would make sense to avoid waterside areas where this plant grows.

"If a dog does eat this plant the owner should get their pet to a vet immediately."

There have previously been reports of the plants being exposed by rainwater along the west coast and on the east coast at Broughty Ferry.

Six dogs are thought to have died in Helensburgh in Argyll and Bute and one in Largs, Ayrshire, last year after consuming the plant.

In exceptional cases Scottish Ministers can, under the Weeds Act, require landowners to take action to stop some poisonous plants spreading but this is limited to a very small number of specified plants and is deployed only when there is a clear and direct threat, for example to livestock or horses.

The Scottish Government said: "Hemlock water dropwort is poisonous to both humans and animals.

"It is widespread throughout the UK and grows in shallow water in streams, on the banks of rivers, lochs, ponds, canals, marshes, wet woodland and in crevices in waterside masonry.

"The roots are the most toxic part of this plant and these can be exposed by ditching operations, or by scouring of flood water overwinter, and that tends to be when they become accessible to pets and livestock.

"The Scottish Government recommends that pet and animal owners should avoid contact with this plant. It would also be prudent, perhaps, for land owners to consider controlling it in areas where people or animals are likely to come into regular contact."