Invasive non-native specialists association –

The Victorian Gardeners that we venerate also have a lot to answer for, being responsible for the introduction of a group of plants that continue to cause huge problems and increased costs to anyone unfortunate enough to have them on their land.

In more recent times the world has become readily accessible to the inquisitive traveller and so the number of new plant species being introduced to the United Kingdom has risen. Seeds casually picked up on a walking boot or snagged on a pair of socks are regularly brought into the country without the host even being aware.

The majority of these casual introductions fail due to conditions not being favourable for growth, with most falling by the wayside and dying.

The majority of the problem plants which are most often in the headlines came here during the Victorian era, deliberately introduced by gardeners who did not realise the speed and ability of these plants to spread rapidly outside of their managed areas.

Over the last ten years the number of companies dealing with the eradication of these Invasive Non-Native Species has increased tenfold. The profile of these problem plants has been raised by legislation which has meant that developers and landowners have had to take action when coming across plants contaminating their property.

There are a series of issues unique to these non-native species that require experience and skills specific to the type of plants being dealt with. The management of these plants should be carried out by someone with an understanding of plant growth and the life cycle of the plant being treated. Each problem species has its own specific requirement and treatment strategy – there is no uniform method that can be used on every plant.

Certain species when treated with chemicals will simply go into hibernation and sit dormant for years awaiting conditions suited for maximum growth. Others produce millions of seeds which will leave a bed of new plants capable of re-growing for years after an initial crop has been supposedly ‘eradicated’.

In recent months there has been a huge increase in the number of companies offering services to this industry sector. Along with some credible companies there has unfortunately been a rise in the number of companies making false promises and claims of instant eradication.

The very fact that these plants have survived and thrived in an alien climate shows that they are tough and versatile and able to adapt to different conditions. It also should prove that they will not be easy to eradicate. Most of these plants produce abundant seed with built-in defence mechanisms designed to help the plant survive through whatever eradication strategy has been applied. The majority of seeds are immune to chemical treatment and have other attributes that have enabled them to survive over countless generations. A quick spray by a lad with a backpack sprayer just isn’t going to get the job done!

Invasive Weed Solutions are aiming to establish a trade body to bring standardisation of the services being offered and a clarity as to what can be achieved with carefully considered management strategies.

Over the coming months I will be talking to (and hopefully receiving contact from) both consultants and contractors wishing to belong to a recognised trade body that will be recognised by the Environment Agency and SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency).

We will aim to set standards by which the industry can be regulated
We will be a voice for the industry
We will ensure that where possible – projects are given to members of the INNS group and not to fly-by-night companies jumping on the bandwagon of invasive plant management
We will provide training and accreditation to companies wishing to become members

We will be looking to launch the INNSA Trade Body in spring 2013 with a website and literature being available at that time.

Mike Clough