Ornamental plants: a threat to the environment due to climate change?

RHS project team
Dr John David
Tomos Jones, (University of Reading) Dr Alastair Culham, (University of Reading) Dr Brian Pickles, (University of Reading)
Start date
01/10/2017 00:00:00
End date
30/09/2020 21:00:00
The problem
Ornamental plants are non-native plants that have been introduced intentionally for horticulture. They can be important for wildlife and increase biodiversity by providing ecosystem services, such as resources for pollinators

Only a very few ornamental plants have escaped ‘beyond the garden fence’ and established themselves in the wider environment to such an extent as to affect our native biodiversity. However, ornamental plants that have escaped and naturalised can have a detrimental ecological impact. 

These are termed invasive. Climate change poses a potential risk in the likelihood of the naturalisation and/or invasion of species that have not previously been problematic - this is referred to as ‘invasive potential’.
PhD student Tomos Jones is investigating this ‘invasive potential’ with both citizen science and species distribution modelling using past and future climate models.

Gardeners can be the first to observe ornamental plants showing ‘invasive characteristics’ within gardens. For this reason, an online survey is asking gardeners in Britain and Ireland to list up to three ornamental plants that they’re finding to be invasive/taking over their garden. The plants reported in this survey will feed into species distribution modelling to investigate which plants might find future climate suitable. This will help us measure their invasive potential.
  • Identify potentially invasive ornamental plants before they become problematic.
  • Engage with gardeners to explain the important role they play in minimising the risks of future invasions.
Benefits to gardeners
This project is an opportunity for gardeners to participate in scientific research in a field which has important implications for horticulture and promoting responsible horticulture. 

Such a focus on identifying invasive potential - before plants become problematic – also has important ecological and economic benefits for the conservation and sustainable management of the wider environment.
Further information
Twitter: @TomosJones92
Email: [email protected]

This research is a CASE PhD jointly supervised at the University of Reading and the Royal Horticultural Society under the NERC SCENARIO Doctoral Training Programme

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.