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Gardeners urged not to buy rhododendrons to protect native wildlife

22 May 2024 2 minute read
Rhododendron ponticum, an invasive species which gardeners are being urged not to buy as conservationists warn it can spread tree diseases and harm native wildlife. Photo Caz Austen/PA Wire

Gardeners are being urged not to buy rhododendrons this spring, as conservationists warn it can spread tree diseases and harm native wildlife.

The Woodland Trust said rhododendron ponticum is an invasive species which can spread fast and crowd out native plants in woods, particularly threatening the UK’s rare temperate rainforests, and costing millions to tackle.

Imported rhododendrons can also arrive with the deadly disease Phytophthora ramorum, which can be fatal to more than 150 plant species and has led to the large scale felling of infected larch plantations.

Invasive plant control

The charity said it had spent £360,000 over the past year on invasive plant control, including removing rhododendrons, while it pointed to one study which put the overall price tag from the plant at £6.2 million.

The popular garden plant, which produces trusses of purple flowers in spring, is listed in law as a non-native invasive species, prohibiting people from planting it in the wild but not preventing its sale or growing in gardens.

Rebecca Gosling, a tree disease expert at the Woodland Trust, warns more should be done to tackle the threat of the plant.

“Rhododendron ponticum is a real problem for the UK’s native plants and trees.

“It is choking native woodland and shading out characteristic plants, including in important temperate rainforests which cover just 1% of land in the UK.

“Action must be taken to protect further species and habitats from the same fate.”

Climate change

She added: “Increased trade and the growing impacts of climate change furthers the likelihood of new species introductions.”

And she urged: “As a top five driver of biodiversity decline, the Government must treat invasive non-native species as a priority issue.

“A failure to get a grip on these and the pressure this places on struggling wildlife populations, will also make it harder to meet nature recovery targets and halt the decline in species abundance by 2030.”

The Woodland Trust is urging the public not to buy rhododendron ponticum for their gardens, and calling on the Government to boost funding to tackle invasive species.

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21 days ago

It has been recognised for many years as a major problem, possibly more so in Wales than elsewhere.Who is supplying this particular Rhododendron? They are the ones that should be sanctioned!!

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