Alien invasion destroys pond life

A A A

It's plant-life, but not as we know it. Alien weeds are taking over rivers, streams and ponds, wreaking havoc and destroying indigenous plants. Britain's rarest flower is threatened, as are fish, amphibians and insects.

It's plant-life, but not as we know it. Alien weeds are taking over rivers, streams and ponds, wreaking havoc and destroying indigenous plants. Britain's rarest flower is threatened, as are fish, amphibians and insects.

The rise of alien species is blamed on the popularity of water features promoted in television garden shows, and the plants suggested for them. When they grow too much they are often discarded, with dramatic effects.

Environmentalists say all foreign invasive pond plants should be banned. The Consumers' Association will tell its hundreds of thousands of members next month, through its influential Gardening Which? magazine, to boycott foreign plants and to admonish any garden centres that sell them.

MPs are also demanding action to prohibit the sale of specific invasive plants. English Nature, which advises the Government on the environment, has lobbied for a change in the law. The Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions has promised a review next year. Environmentalists say that could be too little, too late.

The Consumers' Association believes the growth in aquatic weeds has been fuelled by the boom in television gardening programmes which regularly promote water features. The invasive species sometimes used, mainly native to South America, Asia or Africa, are usually prettier than their British counterparts. But plants such as New Zealand pygmyweed, Parrot's feather (from Central America) or floating pennywort (from North and Central America), can rapidly grow out of control, turning a pretty garden pond into a heaving mass of dense foliage.

Amateur gardeners have been known to hack down the plants and - rather than destroy them, which is hard - dump them in a pond or river, where they swamp native plants. The plants do not need to be deliberately abandoned, however. The smallest fragment of a stem or leaf can migrate from the pond, via a bird's foot or a muddy boot.

The New Zealand pygmyweed Crassula helmsii, which has taken hold in about 1,000 sites up and down the country, is threatening the existence of the starfruit, Britain's rarest wild flower. A delicate white flower, it exists in only nine locations in the UK, and at five the pygmyweed is threatening to swamp it. On one pond near Esher in Surrey, volunteers maintain a vigil over the starfruit, keeping an eye on a neighbouring pond where pygmyweed has formed a blanket cover.

Dave Page, conservation officer with the local council, said: "It's very hard to kill off. The stems break into pieces and each tiny bit can grow again very quickly."

Martin Harper, of the wildplant conservation charity Plantlife, has compiled a report, At War with Aliens, which is being used to lobby the Government. "The only effective way to control these plants is to ban them," he said. "There is a consensus that they are one of the greatest problems facing our native biodiversity."

Mr Harper, Plantlife's conservation director, agrees with the Consumers' Association that the alien plants are taking hold so fast because of television exposure. He said: "[Presenters like] Charlie Dimmock have certainly made water gardening very popular and we are trying to encourage those television shows to have a responsibility to highlight the problems."

Ian Brownhill, Gardening Which? research manager, said: "These plants should not be available for sale and we urge our members and the general public not to buy them." A survey by the magazine revealed that 70 per cent of garden centres sell at least one of the plants "rarely with any label warning of their invasive nature".

A spokesman for Ground Force, the show featuring Ms Dimmock and Alan Titchmarsh, said it did not use specimens on an English Nature list of invasive plants.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

March On Cancer™ - Local Marketing and Promotions Volunteer

This is an unpaid voluntary role.: Cancer Research UK: We need motivational vo...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Maths Teacher - Evening session

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: I am looking for a qualified experi...

Teaching Assistants

£50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week