The United Kingdom was once a superpower that was at the forefront of globalisation during the zenith of the British Empire. One of the major negative effects of this fact was the intentional and accidental introduction of many invasive plants to the island country. Most of which directly competed with local species and caused them to get displaced in an abrupt manner. Although the British government today maintains a program to eradicate non-native flora, their efforts have been in vain.
It’s important for every citizen to know how to identify the major invasive species that are currently wreaking havoc on the island’s ecosystem. After all, they are also directly affected by the matter as introduced plants have the potential to cause levels of agricultural production to plummet. Aside from that, they can also bring misfortune to animals that rely on the native plants which they compete with. With that said, we understand that it can be quite difficult to identify invasive flora because they often easily blend into the surroundings and don’t look foreign. Henceforth, we have decided to take it upon ourselves to enlighten others by listing down the most damaging invasive plant species in the UK.
The Japanese knotweed was intentionally brought over from East Asia as an exotic ornamental plant. Sadly, once it escaped the gardens of local homeowners, it quickly spread and is now extensively found all over England and Wales. Recent findings have even shown that the plant has also expanded into Scotland and has the potential to reach Ireland.
One of the problems why people have with this species is that it’s very hard to eradicate because it reproduces quickly and is extremely hardy. Even if the cool winter temperatures destroy its visible parts, its extensive root system allows it to recover during springtime.
While herbicides are proved to be effective versus the plant, it can take years for them to effectively get rid of it. Because of that, arborists are often forced to eradicate the species by painstakingly digging out its roots. However, using this method requires one to be extra meticulous since even the smallest rhizomes that aren’t destroyed can birth a new plant.
People often innocently mistake the giant hogweed for an overgrown cow parsley plant because they look very similar to each other. However, this invasive species from the Caucasus has the ability to cause severe harm to a person when it’s ingested or touched. The reason for that is because the plant’s sap contains several irritants that naturally developed to protect it.
Although it isn’t as difficult to control as the Japanese knotweed, this species has also presented itself as a headache for arborists. Due to that, a considerable amount of attentiveness is necessary when dealing with the plant. Without that, performing eradication measures shall often be ineffective and thus, a waste of time.
Today’s tree surgeons commonly use glyphosate to control giant hogweed infestations. It is also possible to manually get rid of the species by uprooting it. Needless to say, it’s essential to be careful when doing so since the plant’s sap may cause people to get very irritated. In some instances, extensive contact can even lead to a skin condition called phytophotodermatitis which brings forth large blisters and scars.
Individuals who first brought the common rhododendron to the UK did so with good intentions as the plant produces some of the world’s most beautiful flowers. The ornamental value of the species is undoubted but its ecological impact is also unprecedented as scientists from the Forestry Commission have successfully proven that it reduces the number of earthworms and birds in the areas where it’s planted.
Herbivores like squirrels and dormice that feed on the invasive plant can get sick or even perish as the alkaloids that it contains are toxic. Fortunately, humans don’t have to worry about getting into contact with it since it doesn’t introduce any conditions when it’s simply touched.
Arborists nowadays have found that injecting the common rhododendron’s stems with certain types of herbicides is the most effective way to keep the species from spreading. A major downside that comes with employing this technique is that it can take a months before the plant completely dies. Luckily, researchers from all over the country are currently working hard on developing new methods to keep this Southern European native’s population in check.