‘War is declared on invasive plants in the New Forest’

July 28, 2016


FLORAL BLIGHT: New Forest area Forestry Commission warden Richard Daponte is beside one of the ways to tackle the rhododendron menace, which includes the use of herbicide. Rhododendron dominates the forest undergrowth and a literal root and branch pulling out of it is the only way to control, as it steals the light from natural flora, then the herbicide is used to kill the stump.



FOREIGN INVADER: Rhododendron in its natural habitat – originally from Nepal and other parts of the Far East, has wonderful flowers but has caused a huge headache to conservation officials in the New Forest National Park. Picture by Albert Kok.

Bracken bailer

ALTERNATIVE FERTILISER: This bracken that has been bailed up can be used as a compost for vegetables and other produce that like acidic soils and it can be found in garden centres. The bracken and heather on the park’s heathland has to be monitored and when it gets out of control, it has to be cut back.





EXOTIC plants introduced at the turn of the 20th century and have had a detrimental effect on the management of the New Forest National Park.

The Forestry Commission was making a number of observations at their visitor pitch at this year’s New Forest Show that had drawn thousands of visitors.

The Rhododendron was introduced in Victorian times as an ornamental plant by British citizens who visited the Far East and when it escaped and spread naturally, it has become invasive and outgrown and sometimes replaced the natural undergrowth of the forests.

People tend to associate fauna like bullfrogs, canaries and wild boar with their visible appearance but flora invasive species can be even more detrimental.

It has not been a unique problem for the New Forest as there are similar rhododendron control programs in other special areas of the South West, such as Dartmoor, Exmoor and the Quantock Hills. As well as this, other plants that have been introduced and caused chaos to local diversity are Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam.

Here at the show, the Commission emphasised that the forests is looked after for wildlife, timber and recreation use and this plant had compromised all three.

The roots of this plant can get underneath those of native plants and overwhelm them, so when plants are cut back, stumps have to be sprayed with herbicide. A special fighting fund against Rhododendron has been set up by the Wildlife Trust.

The national flower of Nepal grows very quickly in a UK climate making metres in a short space of time, and this leads to little light being able to penetrate the canopy and has the undesired effect of reducing the number of earthworms, birds and plants in a site, compromising its biodiversity.

In Nepal the flower eaten for its sour taste, with its pickled form lasting for months and the flower juice is also marketed . Fresh or dried flower is added to fish curry in the belief it will soften the bones.

Forestry Commission warden Richard Daponte explained how bad the problem was in the New Forest.

He said: “It keeps coming up and this invades the light for other plants so native species decline and birds don’t feed in it. In Victorian times it was brought from the Far East and was used as an ornamental garden plant. it was used as cover for pheasants for shooting, which is an unfortunate legacy from the big hunting estates.”

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