7 Jul 2009

Stop sale of invasive species at garden centres

As noted yesterday I was at the Wessex Water Joint Customer Liaison Panel meeting in Bath and Avonmouth - one of the other questions I raised there was about invasive species. The Salisbury-based charity Plantlife (www.plantlife.org.uk) has highlighted the dangers of invasive water plants that out-compete native species, reducing biodiversity and causing problems such as flooding. Apparently garden centres still sell many of these species like parrot’s feather, New Zealand pigmyweed, creeping water primrose, floating pennywort and water fern.

Indeed I can remember having the parrot's feather some years ago in a previous pond in Nailsworth and I thought how attractive it was - then someone put me straight and I removed the plant. There maybe many other folk who have these plants in their ponds.....

The government body, the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat reported 2,721 non-native species of plants and animals in England and says on its website: ‘Invasive non-native plant and animal species are the second-greatest threat to biodiversity worldwide (after habitat destruction). They can negatively impact on native species, can transform habitats and threaten whole ecosystems, causing serious problems to the environment and the economy’. Indeed invasive plants can spread over the surface of the water reducing light and oxygen levels below which can be damaging for both plants and animals.

The Government has estimated that invasive species cost the UK economy £2 billion a year.

Apparently a spokesperson from the Garden Centre Association says it works closely with Plantlife to educate its 200 UK members about invasive species, but ultimately, ‘it’s up to individual centres what they stock’. There is no law to prevent the sale of invasive species, only a voluntary code, the Horticultural Code of Practice.

Anyhow I wanted to know what measures Wessex Water take on this issue - and indeed they have a programme to remove plants but they considered it was beyond their remit to join Plantlife and call for a ban of selling the 20 or so most invasive species.

The Government is apparently currently considering whether or not to ban the sale of some of the most damaging plants, but you can also do your bit by telling store managers that you don’t want to see non-native invasive plants on sale - and of course don’t buy them. Even if you are a responsible gardener or fish-keeper and dispose of problem plants safely – by composting or burning them or using a municipal garden waste collection – they may be carried into the wild by the wind or by birds and other animals outside of your control. That’s why Plantlife think avoiding non-native invasive plants in the first place is the most effective choice.

The bottom line from Plantlife: "NEVER release ANY garden or aquarium plants into the wild - don't tip them down land drains, don’t dump them in the countryside, don’t throw them into your normal waste bin. Compost or burn them or use your local council garden waste collection."

Plantlife have more you can do on their website including an excellent survey form - see here - below is part of the form so that folk can see what we are talking about...

Parrots Feather

©Tim Pankhurst/Plantlife

Parrot's Feather Myriophyllum aquaticum

Pygmy weed


New Zealand Pigmyweed Crassula helmsii

Water Primrose

©Alain Dutartre, Cemagref

Creeping Water-primrose Ludwigia peploides

Floating Pennywort

©Tim Pankhurst/Plantlife

Floating Pennywort Hydrocotyle ranunculoides

Water Fern

©Dominic Price/Plantlife

Water Fern Azolla filiculoides

Other Invasives

©Su Cooper/Plantlife

Other (please provide full Latin or common name):

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