I’ve written here about non-native and invasive species before. DEFRA has just published a consultation on the review of schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and a ban on the sale of certain non-native species with responses requested by the end of January 2008.
This document is very alarming for growers, landscapers, importers, plant breeders and gardeners because there are several important garden and landscape plants that will be "scheduled" and will thus not be permitted to be imported, sold or planted for "introduction to the wild" – and, in some cases, possession will become unlawful. Included in the list are all Cotoneaster, all Crocosmia, Robinia pseudoacacia, Rosa rugosa and Quercus ilex.
Even more worryingly, there is a proposal to include all hybrids of listed species without having to specifically list each hybrid in the schedule. In the case of Rosa rugosa, described in The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs as "the parent of innumerable hybrids", literally hundreds of popular varieties could be banned. The same could be true of Rhododendron ponticum, undoubtedly a pest where it is naturalised, but also an important parent of hybrid varieties.
It’s not clear what is meant by "the wild", particularly when the justification for adding some species (such as Crocosmia and Quercus ilex) is that they have been planted in gardens and parks and have spread into the wider environment or merely have the potential to do so – surely this is less a problem with the species concerned and more of an issue with landscape maangement. Also, because the list seems to anticipate potential problems that have not yet arisen with some species, there is a worry that other plants could be added even if they have not become a problem. Study of the list also shows a few plants that perhaps might be added in the future, since the same criteria that have been applied to the existing list could be applied to them – Buddleja davidii and Geranium oxonianum spring to mind.
It is our view that this document takes a step too far. It is only by speaking up that growers, breeders and gardeners can hope to amend this proposal before it becomes law. Therefore, I recommend that you read the document and complete the response form as soon as you can.