Invasive plant ban imminent as EU regulation nears agreement

A new regulation from the EU, to be agreed on 4 December could place stringent controls on 37 non-native invasive species including 14 plants from 1 January 2016.

Andrew Gill
Andrew Gill

These species have been identified as being "of Union concern", meaning they have been assessed as posing such a high risk of invasion within one or more EU member states, that a co-ordinated, Europe-wide response is needed to limit their spread.

It will therefore become an offence in the UK to keep, cultivate, breed, transport, sell or exchange these species, or release them, intentionally or unintentionally, into the environment.

Eight of the soon-to-be banned species are garden plants including American skunk-cabbage, curly waterweed and water hyacinth.

Occurrences of American skunk-cabbage in the wild have increased by 84 per cent in 15 years while occurrences of curly waterweed in the wild have increased by 41 per cent in 15 years. 

Plantlife welcomed the new regulations as a mechanism to prevent future invasive species becoming established in the wild.

UK governments will have 18 months to put effective management measures in place to control the newly listed species and limit their spread accordingly, although a full two years is allowed to sell off existing trade stocks.

If any of these species are already growing in a garden, there will be no attempt to remove them and it will not be illegal to grow them, so long as garden owners act responsibly and don’t encourage the plants to spread or escape.

However, sites in the wild where these invasive species are causing problems may have to be restored and costs could be recovered in accordance with the ‘polluter pays’ principle, meaning that whoever caused them to spread or be released into the wild may have to foot the bill for subsequent control.

Plant species included:

  • American skunk-cabbage Lysichiton americanus
  • Curly waterweed Lagarosiphon major
  • Carolina water-shield Cabomba caroliniana
  • Water hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes
  • Tree groundsel Baccharis halimifolia
  • Persian hogweed Heracleum persicum
  • Sosnowskyi's hogweed Heracleum sosnowskyi
  • Parthenium weed Parthenium hysterophorus
  • Mile-a-minute weed Persicaria perfoliata / Polygonum perfoliatum
  • Kudzu vine Pueraria montana var. lobata
  • Already banned:
  • water primrose Ludwigia grandiflora and Ludwigia peploides, floating pennywort Hydrocotyle ranunculoides, parrot's feather Myriophyllum aquaticum.

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