Spy the gar­den in­vaders and nip them in the bud

Daily Express - - NEWS - By John Ing­ham En­vi­ron­ment Edi­tor ●To take part go to plan­talert.org

GAR­DEN­ERS are be­ing urged to spot new in­vaders – and help up­root a prob­lem be­fore it starts.

The Plant Alert scheme wants to find the new Ja­panese knotweeds and Hi­malayan Bal­sams be­fore they spread – and dam­age the coun­try.

Run by the Botan­i­cal So­ci­ety of Bri­tain and Ire­land and Coven­try Univer­sity, the sur­vey is ask­ing for all eyes to be on the look­out for any plant with vig­or­ous growth, pro­lific self-seed­ing or longer flow­er­ing pe­ri­ods.

In­va­sive plants are species im­ported from abroad which be­come a ma­jor prob­lem be­cause they out­com­pete na­tive species and have no nat­u­ral preda­tors.

The most no­to­ri­ous ex­am­ple is Ja­panese knotweed, which was brought here from the Far East byVic­to­rian col­lec­tors as an or­na­men­tal plant.

It is now de­scribed by the En­vi­ron­ment Agency as “in­dis­putably the UK’s most ag­gres­sive, destruc­tive and in­va­sive plant”. It has spread across the coun­try and erad­i­ca­tion re­quires ex­per­tise.

It grows quickly and can dam­age prop­erty be­cause of its abil­ity to grow into con­crete and through as­phalt and drains. It is thought to af­fect more than five per cent of UK homes.

Plant Alert’s Dr Katha­rina Dehnen-Sch­mutz, pic­tured, said: “The chal­lenge is to iden­tify pos­si­ble fu­ture in­va­sive plants with po­ten­tially high neg­a­tive im­pacts, out of the ever-in­creas­ing pool of about 70,000 or­na­men­tals avail­able.” Plant Alert al­ready has a list of the top 10 plants so far re­ported.

Kevin Walker, of the Botan­i­cal So­ci­ety, said: “The most ef­fec­tive way to re­duce the im­pacts of these species is to iden­tify them be­fore they es­cape into the wild.”

Pic­tures: FIONA MACFARLANE & GETTY Ja­panese knotweed, above, can grow into con­crete and drains, blight­ing nearby prop­er­ties

Threats in­clude Hi­malayan hon­ey­suckle, above, and the skunkcab­bage im­port, left

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