Posts Tagged ‘discovery zone’

Our future invaders

May 17th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Gunnera tinctoria

Amongst the dazzling colours of the Great Pavilion at next week’s Chelsea Flower Show, there’s a quieter and more reflective area that can be missed by visitors and TV cameras alike.

The Discovery Zone is the area for new ideas and new research and new science, the fresh thinking that will soon be reflected in the rest of the Great Pavilion and in gardening more generally.

Invasive species pose a threat to our native plants in their wild habitats, and at the University of Reading Tomos Jones has been looking at garden plants that might escape from our gardens and become invasive in the future. One surprising example is the giant rhubarb, Gunnera tinctoria. His Chelsea exhibit Ornamental plants: our future invaders explains.

“Invasive ornamental plants are often beautiful but they can have a range of detrimental ecological impacts,” said Tomos. “For example, giant rhubarb can grow over 2m tall and has huge leaves. It can out-compete other plants for resources, with very few others surviving in its shadow.”

Introduced to gardens from South America in the nineteenth century, it was first found in the wild in 1908 but is now increasingly seen in wet places, especially in the south. One flower head can produce 250,000 seeds so the potential for spread is clear.

“Gardeners have an important role in preventing and managing invasive plants,” continued Tomos. “They can be the first to observe plants showing signs of invasive characteristics. The information we collect from gardeners will help us identify and control species before they become a problem.”

The plant I’ve noticed that seems to be moving out of gardens is the Mediterranean Euphorbia characias. It’s starting to colonise village roadsides in my area of Northamptonshire and is also established on a roundabout on the M25 near Heathrow airport (below)!

You can contribute to this research by reporting your own experience of potentially problematic ornamental plants.

Tomos Jones said: “Many ornamental plants favoured by gardeners for their beauty have the ability to escape beyond the garden fence and have a damaging effect on the environment.

“Invasive plants that are not managed or disposed of responsibly can spread quickly and dominate landscapes, to the detriment of native species. We are asking the public to help identify plants showing invasive characteristics.” So have a chat with Tomos at the Show, or complete this online survey.

And don’t forget to take a look at the Mr F Chelsea stand. Why not stop by and say hello on stand EA475 on Eastern Avenue.

Euphorbia characias near Heathrow airport