EU inspectors to dig up and remove plants from UK gardens

New EU rules give inspectors ability to dig up banned plants

GARDENERS face having their flower beds dug up in a bid to destroy some of Britain’s best loved plants.

BANNED: The scented Rhododendron luteum in flower [ALAMY]

The proposed ban on possessing such plants
goes far beyond the existing regulations
on non-native species in England

EU bureaucrats want new powers that would allow their inspectors to remove any plants on the Brussels hit list.

Garden favourites such as the Virginia creeper and Hottentot fig are likely to be top of the list along with several types of rhododendron.

The aim is to eliminate invasive non-native species that threaten to cause problems in the countryside.

However, the Royal Horticultural Society last night expressed its concern at the secrecy behind the decision-making and warned that whole species, including garden hybrids, could end up being banned.

Under the new rules, authorities will have the power to come into people’s homes and destroy plants, including popular shrubs such as cotoneasters, which could well be on the banned list.

The measure, which prevents the import, transportation or ownership of a banned plant, will be voted on by the European Parliament next month.

In spite of a year-long consult­ation, it is still unclear just how many species will be subject to the ban or what criteria are being used to compile the list.

The RHS’s chief scientist Dr John David said: “Our concern lies around the definition of species they are using. It’s so inclusive that totally innocuous plants could become subject to the regulation.

“At present, Defra [Environment Department] has strict guidelines for its list of restricted plants. You are not allowed to plant any of those plants in the wild and it works well. The draft of the laws, issued nine months ago, originally had a limit of 50 species to be banned but that limit has gone and it could potentially be a lot more. We have no idea and that’s the most worrying part.

“You are looking at potential bans on something which, say, is causing a problem in the heat of southern Spain but would not be a problem in the slightest in northern Scotland.

“Rhododendron luteum is quite widespread in Britain’s gardens. It has yellow flowers and is sweetly scented. It is escaping into the environment and it is limited on [Defra’s] schedule nine but we are not aware of it doing any harm in the wild.

Gardening, plants, flowers, EU, banned, shrubs, Virginia creeper

Britain has many species growing in the wild that aren’t native species and most aren’t causing any problems. There are, however, plants like the Himalayan balsam which excludes other species. If you try to move it then it can damage the riverbank, so we accept this.”

Earlier this year the RHS expressed its concerns about the proposed EU regulation during a Commons Environment Audit ­Committee meeting on invasive non-native species.


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