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Garden centres take action against invasive pond plant

Plantlife is delighted that the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) and the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA) have advised their members to carefully dispose of any creeping water primrose they have for sale.

January 01 2010

Creeping water primrose © Alain Dutartre

Creeping water primrose © Alain Dutartre

Creeping water primrose (Ludwigia (Jussiaea) peploides and Ludwigia (Jussiaea) grandiflora), is causing serious harm to wetlands, canals and rivers on the continent, particularly in France. It is beginning to appear at sites in the UK. Creeping water primrose growth displaces native plants, increases flood risk and reduces amenity and navigation.

The HTA and OATA are advising their members that this plant should not be sold, and that remaining stocks of it be carefully destroyed.

Sophie Thomas, Invasive Species Officer at the wild plant conservation charity Plantlife, said, ‘Plantlife welcomes this timely action by the HTA, OATA and their members. We hope that traders who are not members of these Associations will also follow this advice.

Plantlife urged plant suppliers to check their stocks against the variety of names by which these plants are known, such as primrose willow, or Jussiaea.

In Le Marais Poitevin, a wetland in France, conservationists have spent an average of 200,000 Euros a year removing thousands of tons of creeping water primrose in an attempt to manage the site.

Alain Dutartre, a French ecologist with 20 years experience of managing creeping water primrose said "I'm very disappointed by the continuous progression of these species despite the numerous efforts of scientists and managers to control their geographical dispersion. It seems to me that the current British situation with small colonization could permit an eradication of these species on condition that the observation of sites and the control management is very effective."

David Gilchrist of the HTA stated "Now that we are aware of the likely harm that these particular water primroses would inflict on habitats in the UK, we believe this is the responsible course of action that traders should take."

Keith Davenport of OATA said "Given the limited distribution of these species in the UK and the impact they have had in France we quite agree our members are best not selling these species and should carefully dispose of any stocks they hold. By so doing it demonstrates that the industry is aware of its responsibilities to the wider community."

Trevor Renals, Invasive Species Advisor for the Environment Agency advises gardeners not to panic if they find they have creeping water primrose in their garden ponds.

"It is really important that people dispose of any garden or pond plants carefully, either by composting them in their gardens or using their local green waste disposal schemes. Don’t be tempted to fly-tip garden waste into the environment, or give invasive plants to your friends or neighbours."

The Environment Agency is eradicating some of the existing creeping water primrose sites and providing support to landowners who are also treating infestations.

Niall Moore, Head of Defra’s Non-Native Species Secretariat is hopeful that prompt coordinated action will eradicate creeping water primrose from the UK, saving millions in control costs and avoiding damage to the environment. "If you think you’ve seen creeping water primrose in the wild, or in your garden I would urge you to check the plant against our creeping water primrose identification sheet on our website http://www.nonnativespecies.org/. There are harmless native and non-native plants that look similar, so it is important that we confirm the identification."

The Environment Agency has requested that members of the public should email an image of the plant and a postcode or grid reference of the location to ludwigia@cornwt.demon.co.uk , if they have it in their pond or know where it is in the countryside.