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It is important to recognise the risks posed by plant imports to crops and other plants in the UK, and to international conservation efforts. So, to safeguard plant health in Britain, there are statutory controls on importing plants and plant products into this country.
Within the European Union (EU) there are no border checks for plants and plant products travelling between member states and, it is possible, to import and export plants freely with very few exceptions.
The movement of most plant material into or out of the European Union requires a Phytosanitary Certificate which specifies that plants are pest- and disease-free and free of soil. These are issued by the plant protection service of the exporting country. For more detailed information contact the APHA.
Small quantities of plant materials, which normally require Phytosanitary Certificates on import, may be brought into the UK from outside the EU provided they are:
For non-EU European countries and those bordering the Mediterranean the regulations allow five plants, up to 2kg (4lb) of bulbs and five retail packets of seed. Cuttings are considered to be the same as plants. Potatoes, citrus and grape vines may not, however, be brought in.
From the rest of the world, you are allowed five retail packets of seed. No plants, cuttings or bulbs may be brought back without a Phytosanitary Certificate. Details are available from APHA.
When travelling overseas with the intention of collecting plants, see our page on collecting plants from abroad.
If you wish to bring back wild plants, you will need to be sure that the plants are not endangered. Here the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) applies. These regulations are detailed and offer different levels of protection to species. Details are available from the Wildlife Licensing and Registration Service.
You can bring back CITES controlled plants which have been grown on a nursery, but you need to be able to produce documentation obtained from the supplier at the time of purchase. Orchids can be imported without permits only as cut flowers or where grown in flasks.
Wild plants, even if not covered by CITES, are often protected from collection in many countries. Increasingly the provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which recognises a country's property rights over its native plants, will also come into force.
There are strict penalties for smuggling prohibited and restricted items. This can include unlimited fines, the possibility of imprisonment, or both.
Collecting plants abroadDEFRA Plant HealthDEFRA guide: Bringing fruit, veg and plant products into the UK
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