Non-native species – DEFRA consultation requires response

I’ve written here about non-native and invasive species before. DEFRA has just published a consultation on the review of schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and a ban on the sale of certain non-native species with responses requested by the end of January 2008.

This document is very alarming for growers, landscapers, importers, plant breeders and gardeners because there are several important garden and landscape plants that will be "scheduled" and will thus not be permitted to be imported, sold or planted for "introduction to the wild" – and, in some cases, possession will become unlawful. Included in the list are all Cotoneaster, all Crocosmia, Robinia pseudoacacia, Rosa rugosa and Quercus ilex.

Even more worryingly, there is a proposal to include all hybrids of listed species without having to specifically list each hybrid in the schedule. In the case of Rosa rugosa, described in The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs as "the parent of innumerable hybrids", literally hundreds of popular varieties could be banned. The same could be true of Rhododendron ponticum, undoubtedly a pest where it is naturalised, but also an important parent of hybrid varieties.

It’s not clear what is meant by "the wild", particularly when the justification for adding some species (such as Crocosmia and Quercus ilex) is that they have been planted in gardens and parks and have spread into the wider environment or merely have the potential to do so – surely this is less a problem with the species concerned and more of an issue with landscape maangement. Also, because the list seems to anticipate potential problems that have not yet arisen with some species, there is a worry that other plants could be added even if they have not become a problem. Study of the list also shows a few plants that perhaps might be added in the future, since the same criteria that have been applied to the existing list could be applied to them – Buddleja davidii and Geranium oxonianum spring to mind.

It is our view that this document takes a step too far. It is only by speaking up that growers, breeders and gardeners can hope to amend this proposal before it becomes law. Therefore, I recommend that you read the document and complete the response form as soon as you can.

The Garden and Art Event at West Dean

Many clients of PFE will be familiar with the fact that we are heavily involved in the organisation of the Garden and Art Event held annually at West Dean Gardens, near Chichester in West Sussex, an event which now enters its twelfth year. This is a great way for PFE to keep in touch with the gardening public and many specialist growers from across the south of England – it’s also great fun!

The date for the 2008 Garden and Art Event has now been announced. It will be held on 21 and 22 June 2008.

Plant health cost-sharing study published

You may recall that I wrote in March that DEFRA had commissioned a study into responsibility and cost-sharing for plant health with particular reference to quarantine plant health issues. The report has now been published and presents the options for responsiblity and cost-sharing and can be found here. PFE was pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the issues with Jeff Waage, the author, and hope that our contribution was useful.