What UK legislation covers invasive non-native plants?
The Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) recognised the need to control certain species of invasive plants and animals already causing a problem in the UK, listing them in Schedule 9. Originally only giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) and Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) were listed. However, in April 2010 a further 36 plants were added onto Schedule 9 (see below for a download of the list). An amendment to the Wildlife and Countryside Act has a provision to ban specific plants from sale. In April 2014 a ban on sale of five of the worst invasive water plants in the UK came into force. The five species banned from sale are:
Ludwigia grandiflora and L. peploides
The development of policy and legislation in relation to the environment is one of the areas that falls under the devolved administrations;
- Wales: covered by the Wildlife & Countryside Act but with separate amendments
- Northern Ireland: covered by the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011. This includes a provision for the ban on sale of animal and plant species listed in Schedule 9, as specified in an order issued by Northern Ireland Executive Department of the Environment. At the present time no species have be identified for the ban on sale
- Scotland: a new Wildlife and Natural Environment Act (Scotland) 2011 is now in force making it illegal to plant any non-native plant in the wild in Scotland
FACT: It is a criminal offence to plant or cause to grow a non-native invasive species that is listed on Schedule 9 in the wild which carries penalties of up to £5,000 fine and/or 2 years imprisonment.
Republic of Ireland
The Irish Government adopted in 2011 the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations in which Schedule 3 provides a list of species which it is an offence to (a) cause to grow, disperse or spread in the wild and (b) possess, propagate, offer, distribute or import with the intention of making available for sale. However the provision (b) on dealing in and keeping certain species is not yet in effect. The EU Regulation (below) also applies in the Republic of Ireland. For more information on identifying and recording invasive species in Ireland, visit their website.
What is in place to help tackle the problem?
The Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) included a requirement for signatories to prevent the introduction of, control or eradicate those alien species which threaten ecosystems, habitats or species. This led to the formation of the Global Invasive Species Programme in 1997 which published the Global Strategy on Invasive Alien Species in 2001.
Within the UK, legislation on non-native species was reviewed in 2001 which led to the formation of;
Alongside these developments, working with the horticulture industry, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), published the revised Horticulture Code of Practice for England and Wales in 2011 which provides non-binding guidance to horticulture professionals and gardeners on dealing with non-native invasive species. There is also a Horticultural Code of Practice for Scotland.
Invasive plants covered by legislation in the UK and Ireland
The EU Regulation on Invasive Alien Species, which became law early in 2015 and has had several updates since, has a provision for a list of species of EU-wide concern. Species that are included on the list attract the strictest measures of control, including a ban on keeping, growing or cultivating, transporting or trading, use or exchange, as well as release into the wider environment. These controls apply to individuals as well as organisations and businesses that own or hold any of these species.
Below are the 36 plants on the list which are banned from sale:
G - plants which gardeners grow, or are likely to grow
W - plants which gardeners might have in their gardens or ponds, but are generally considered ‘weeds’
[Plants with no symbol are obscure, unlikely to be found in gardens]
Acacia saligna (golden wreath wattle)
Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven) G
Alternanthera philoxeroides (alligator weed)
Andropogon virginicus (broomsedge)
Asclepias syriaca (milkweed) G
Baccharis halmifolia (tree groundsel)
Cabomba caroliniana (Carolina fanwort)
Cardiospermum grandiflorum (balloon vine)
Cortaderia jubata (purple pampas grass)
Ehrharta calycina (purple veldgrass)
Eichhornia crassipes (water hyacinth) G
Elodea nuttallii (Nuttall’s water weed) W
Gunnera tinctoria (Chilean rhubarb) G
Gymnocoronis spilanthoides (Senegal tea)
Heracleum mantegazzianum (giant hogweed) W
Heracleum persicum (giant hogweed, Tromsø palm) W
Heracleum sosnowskyi (giant hogweed) W
Humulus scandens (Japanese hop)
Hydrocotyle ranunculoides (floating pennywort) W
Impatiens glandulifera (Himalayan balsam) W
Lagarosiphon major (curly waterweed) W
Lespedeza cuneata (Chinese shrub clover)
Ludwigia grandiflora (water primrose) W
Ludwigia peploides (water primrose) W
Lygodium japonicum (climbing fern)
Lysichiton americanus (American skunk cabbage) G
Microstegium vimineum (Japanese stiltgrass)
Myriophyllum aquaticum (parrot’s feather) W
Myriophyllum heterophyllum (broadleaf watermilfoil)
Parthenium hysterophorus (parthenium weed)
Pennisetum setaceum (crimson fountain grass) G
Persicaria perfoliata (Asiatic tearthumb)
Prosopis juliflora (mesquite)
Pueraria montana var. lobata (kudzu)
Salvinia molesta (giant salvinia)
Triadica sebifera (Chinese tallow tree)
Gardeners who already have these species in their gardens are not likely to be prosecuted for having them, but will be required to meet the other provisions of the Regulation to ensure that they control the species effectively on their property and do not allow it to spread. If at all possible they should seek to remove the plants altogether. Gardeners will be expected to dispose of listed plant material by burning, burial or in the green waste recycling, as appropriate (see Control section below).
As the EU Regulation has been transposed into UK law, it continues to be effective following the UK’s leaving the European Union although it is unclear at the present time whether any future additions to the list of species of Union concern will be adopted in the UK.