0 Water Primrose nipped in the bud

Fast growing flood-risk plant being eradicated in Britain's waterways

An invasive plant species with the potential to choke UK waterways and increase the risk of flooding is being eradicated by the Environment Agency.

Water primrose, or Ludwigia grandiflora, is a native of South America and can spread rapidly in ponds and rivers, threatening other aquatic species. Once established, the plant forms dense mats above and below the water, clogging up waterways, obstructing boats and increasing the risk of flooding.

The Environment Agency and Defra are warning gardeners not to release water primrose into the wild where it can quickly get out of control.

Jon Naylor, flood risk expert at the Environment Agency said: "Ludwigia is still on sale in garden centres across the UK, often mis-labelled as Jussiaea, but has the potential to significantly increase the risk of flooding from rivers and streams. Once this plant gets a foothold outside of garden ponds its effect on the aquatic environment can be devastating. We are making a concerted effort now to eliminate this plant from UK waterways before it becomes unmanageable and causes us problems in the future."

Water primrose already presents a significant flood risk in other European countries including France, Belgium and the Netherlands, where authorities spend hundreds of thousands of Euros each year to control it. Fortunately in the UK the plant was detected early, and in 2006 Defra funded a trial to find the best method of tackling this invasive plant.

The trial concluded that the plant must be sprayed with a 'sticky' herbicide which kills water primrose from the roots, preventing regrowth. This year the Environment Agency has begun spraying in England and Wales at six sites where water primrose is known to be growing. The Environment Agency will need to repeat this process several times over the coming year to make sure that this plant is effectively eliminated.

Joan Ruddock, Minister for Wildlife said: "As with many things, prevention is better than cure, and we should all be aware of the dangers of introducing invasive non-native species into the wild. However the water primrose is already here, and I am pleased to see work to eradicate it before it causes the same problems to our wildlife and waterways seen in other parts of Europe."

Defra is now considering proposals to ban the sale of several of the most invasive plant species, including water primrose, in the UK. Following a consultation which closed in January, Defra is also considering an amendment to the Wildlife and Countryside Act that would see water primrose added to a list of invasive species which cannot be introduced to the wild without a licence.

Source :- Environment Agency

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