Thursday, 19 June 2014
Beautiful but deadly
The showy, spring-flowering rhododendrons and azaleas in our parks have mostly passed their peak. There were only these purple ones (Rhododendron ponticum) still in bloom in Golden Acre Park. They are not native to Britain. They were introduced in the late 18th century, from Asia, Spain and Portugal. Prized for their exotic and colourful blooms, they were planted all over the country in Victorian parks and gardens. The trouble is that they are not only toxic to grazing animals but they spread quickly, via seed and roots. They rapidly crowd out our native plants, with consequent negative effects on animals, insects and birds. Notoriously difficult to control and eradicate, they are now considered to be an ecological disaster, especially in areas such as the west of Scotland, Wales and heathlands in the south of England. Efforts are being made in many areas to root out the pest.