When people think of invasive species they often think of animals. In England grey squirrels are a classic example of this as their presence has led to the widespread decline of the native population of red squirrels. What people may not realise is that this can also happen with plants as well.
The Environment Minister Richard Benyon has confirmed that the following plant species have been banned:
- Water Fern
- Parrot’s Feather
- Floating Pennywort
- Australian Swamp Stone-crop (also known as New Zealand Pygmy Weed)
- Water Primrose
It can be tempting to ask why invasive aquatic plant species need to be banned. The simple answer is that on its own Floating Pennywort costs £23.5 million per year to control and in total these five species are worth £1.7 billion in terms of control costs.
Richard Benyon is clear when explaining why this banning order is essential in order to maintain the natural environment “Tough laws to curb the sale of these plants could save the country millions of pounds as well as protecting wildlife such as fish and native plants. But as well as saving money and protecting wildlife the ban will also help maintain access to rivers and lakes for anglers and watersport fans.”
Typically these plants deprive plants and animals of oxygen as well as making it harder for people who want to use rivers and lakes. The ban will be strictly enforced with retailers having a year to stop stocking these banned plants. After this period anyone who continues to sell these plants faces a £5000 fine and six months in prison.
This news has been met positively from a number of organisations including the Wildfowl and Wetland’s Trust as Head of Conservation Policy Carrie Hume explains “Thankfully, some of the most destructive non-native plants will no longer be on sale in our garden centres. This is the right move. The environmental and economic cost of dealing with this problem is already huge and dealing with it now is a great saving for the future.”
In short this banning order if properly enforced will offer a lot of positive benefits for the natural environment. The Be Plant Wise campaign has been established to ensure this happens and that retailers are aware of their responsibilities in order to maintain a balanced natural environment in the long term.