GRAHAM TURNER: EU under fire for (herbaceous) border controls

A personal view

A personal view

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The nation’s gardeners have been getting hot under the collar this week and, not for the first time, the finger is being pointed at the European Union.

The EU is proposing legislation aimed at protecting us from ‘invasive alien species’ (IAS). These are plants or animals that may live perfectly happily in their usual environment but elsewhere cause damage or harm by out-competing native species.

Our gardeners, it seems, are worried that plants that have become staples of English gardens, such as rhodedendron and buddleia, could be banned and that the authorities could be given powers to enter a property to seize and destroy plants that are of ‘Union concern’.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) joined the debate last week and gave evidence to a Parliamentary committee.

It said: “The regulation contains a provision to create a list of species of ‘Union Concern’ for which strict controls would be put in place. As a significant number of invasive non-native plants arise from horticulture, the RHS is keen that the decision-making process for listing is transparent and evidence-based.

“The new regulation, which will be voted on by the European Parliament in April, would effectively ban species of ‘Union Concern’ from being brought into, transported, or even possessed within the EU. This ban on possession would go far beyond the existing regulation on invasive non-native species in England.”

The RHS is, instead, calling for a ‘black list’ that would see plants that present a clear environmental threat being restricted.

It does seem to me that it’s a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, with most of our garden plants having been imported from across the world over the last couple of hundred years.

However, without wishing to upset any gardeners, it does make sense to take stronger action on IAS.

Though rhodedendrons look good in the garden or parkland, there are parts of the country where they have destroyed local habitats – in Snowdonia, for example, up to 2,000 hectares of landscape has been overtaken by these plants that are poisonous to most plants and birds.