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Banned: The Pond Plants That Have Been Causing Havoc in the Countryside

After years of campaigning by Plantlife, a law banning the "infamous five" comes into effect.

April 01 2014

Parrot's Feather chokes a river. © GBNNSS

Parrot's Feather chokes a river. © GBNNSS

The Infamous Five

The following non-native, invasive pond plants have been banned from sale as of the 1 April 2014:

1. Water fern

2. Parrot's feather

3. Floating pennywort

4. Water primrose

5. New Zealand pigmyweed (aka Australian swamp stonecrop)

After years of campaigning, Plantlife welcomes a new law which comes into force on April 1st 2014, that bans the sale of five non-native pond plants that have wreaked havoc with the environment, putting our native wildflowers and wildlife in serious jeopardy (see box, right, for the list). 

But many other invasive plants are still at large and Plantlife has drawn up a list of 12 non-native plants that are causing the most damage to the countryside and our native species. Plantife’s “Dirty Dozen” includes old chestnuts like rhododendron, modern day disasters like Himalayan balsam and some perhaps unexpected villains, such as the exotic-looking Hottentot fig.

Plantlife’s Dr Trevor Dines says “Invasive plants have often followed well trodden paths from garden centre to countryside. People have put them in their gardens but then found them to be too aggressive, and have then dug them up and discarded them, perhaps through fly tipping. That has given them just the launch pad into the wild they needed. Other species like Cotoneaster have received as much of a helping hand from nature as from humans, being scattered from gardens by birds feasting on the berries. It is the very existence of these species in our gardens and parks which is the biggest problem.

Most of the Dirty Dozen have long been identified as a risk in England and Wales through the Wildlife and Countryside Act, which makes it an offence to plant or otherwise cause them to grow in the wild. But that hasn’t stopped them becoming established there.

Dr Trevor Dines says some plants have taken us by surprise. “While plants like Japanese knotweed are obviously very aggressively invasive, others have come in under the radar. We didn’t understand the effect of New Zealand pigmyweed, for example, until it was too late.”

Plantlife estimates that £1.7 billion is spent each year on trying to control non-native invasive plants in the British countryside.

Dr Trevor Dines says “We’ve got to recognise that with some species, we have lost the battle but with others we still have a chance to seek out and eradicate them, we need to target resources to special places.”

Plantlife are currently battling to control cotoneaster on the Isle of Portland in Dorset and also the Gower in Wales but are calling on gardeners to do their bit to help.

“If we as a nation of gardeners have inadvertently caused much of the problem, then the good news is that we can solve much of it by the choices we make. The most effective way to stop the spread of these plants is for us to avoid planting them in the first place. We can all do our bit.”

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