Plant Alert is a new project aimed at discovering which garden plants have the potential to become invasive and problematic in future.
Gardeners across Britain and Ireland are being asked to report potentially invasive garden plants using the new Plant Alert web page: plantalert.org
Why is Plant Alert so important?
The majority of invasive plants in the UK - such as Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam - were initially introduced as ornamental plants and then spread from gardens into the wider environment. To prevent further plant invasions, gardeners can help by reporting plants that are spreading in their gardens right now and are proving difficult to control. The aim is to help monitor potentially invasive garden plants over time and hopefully detect species that have up to now not shown clear signs of invasiveness but could do so in a changing climate.
How to get involved with Plant Alert
Send Plant Alert your report of potentially invasive garden plants using the form on the website. You can submit your records from your desktop or smartphone: plantalert.org/app
You don't need to give precise details of your location - a town and grid ref or postcode are requested so your records show up on this map. Records will be archived by BSBI, but you can choose whether to provide your name and email address or to submit anonymously.
The survey asks you to report on how confident you are about the plant's ID (you can upload a photo or ask for ID help if you are unsure); you are asked how the plant arrived in your garden and how it spreads there, how you control and dispose of it, how successful your control attempts are, if the plant grows in your area... It's easy to go back and edit the report if you need to!
Check out the map showing mapped locations and click on the icon to see which potentially invasive plants have been reported from that location.
Background to the projectThe majority of our ornamental plants are non-native. They contribute greatly to our enjoyment of gardens and represent a long history of plant discovery and garden design. However, some have escaped the controlled environment of gardens, and a small minority of these are threatening native biodiversity or are causing severe problems for infrastructure, agriculture or forestry. Well known examples include Japanese Knotweed (Reynoutria japonica), Rhododendron ponticum and Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera).
The period between introduction of a species and it first being noticed as a problem can be a long one, making future control problematic. In Britain on average, this time span has been more than one hundred years. Early detection of potentially problematic plants for further risk assessment could greatly improve our ability to prevent plant species becoming invasive.
This survey is based upon the assumption that it is gardeners who are most likely to notice first if a particular ornamental plant may have the potential to spread outside the garden. (Most gardeners will know which plants tend to overgrow others or tend to spread all over the garden.) This knowledge could be invaluable in identifying potential invaders, triggering timely risk assessment.