Invader 'choking' native plants, gardeners warned

Rhododendron ponticum plant showing vivid pink flowers
Rhododendron ponticum is classed as an invasive species in the UK [Caz Austen/PA Media]

A wildlife charity has urged gardeners not to plant rhododendrons.

The Woodland Trust said the invasive plant could carry a disease that could be fatal to more than 150 species.

The Lincolnshire-based charity has called on the government to introduce stricter measures to stop the plant being imported.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it was already illegal to plant rhododendrons in the wild and funding was being provided to control them.

The trust said it had spent £360,000 on removing invasive plants over the past year.

Rebecca Gosling, an expert in tree disease at the trust, said invasive species had placed pressure on wildlife populations.

A rhododendron ponticum bush
The Woodland Trust is calling for stronger rules to stop invasive species from being imported [Caz Austen/PA Media]

"Rhododendron ponticum is a real problem for the UK’s native plants and trees. It is choking native woodland and shading out characteristic plants," she added.

"Action must be taken to protect further species and habitats from the same fate. The government must treat invasive non-native species as a priority issue".

The Woodland Trust, which is based in Grantham, said it cost around £6.2m a year to tackle an estimated 311 invasive species in Great Britain.

A spokesperson for Defra said the Countryside Stewardship scheme funded land managers to control the spread of rhododendrons.

“While we do not have plans to ban the sale... given they are already widely spread, we are working hard to detect, protect and eradicate the threats of non-native species,” they added.

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