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21 Jun 2024 < Back

Tackling scaremongering and promoting unity in invasive non-native plant management

In recent weeks, two notable articles have brought attention to the topic of invasive non-native plants (INNPs). The BBC article on the rapid spread of Himalayan balsam and The Guardian's piece on the so-called "British bamboo crisis" offer contrasting narratives. The BBC article encourages collective action and actually offering incentives to get involved with Local Action Groups (LAGs) to undertake balsam bashing, however The Guardian's piece arguably provides fuel to the fire over the rising concerns of invasive bamboo species.

The Himalayan balsam challenge

The BBC article sheds light on the growing issue of Himalayan balsam in the UK. As to be expected with INNPs it has rapidly spread along riverbanks, outcompeting native flora, disrupting local ecosystems and aiding in riverbank erosion. However, the tone of the article is one of optimism and action. It emphasises the importance of community efforts in tackling the problem, with Gloucester Wildlife Trust teaming up with Crowdorsa, to incentives and monetise tackling the problem plant by offering 25p per square meter of Himalayan Balsam removed. Whilst these LAGs are supported by volunteers, if further funding was available, could our Invasive Weed Control Group (IWCG) members provide a watch a brief or be more involved in these projects and provide further expertise? Overall a good news article which is rarely seen nowadays.

The Bamboo scaremongering

In stark contrast, The Guardian's article on the British bamboo crisis takes a more alarmist approach. It describes the experiences of homeowners whose gardens have been overrun by invasive bamboo species, portraying the plant as an unstoppable force that can cause significant damage to properties. One which actually we know isn’t exactly true as IWCG member Environet undertook its remediation. While it is true that bamboo can be invasive and challenging to manage, the IWCG has many members, with decades of collective experience who could stop this troublesome plant and this is failed to be identified within the article.

Bamboo - The new Japanese Knotweed?

Is invasive bamboo species the new Japanese Knotweed? Are we facing Japanese Knotweed 2.0? In my opinion, yes and no.

Yes – Invasive bamboo species do have striking similarities to Japanese Knotweed. It is potentially less likely to absorb herbicides due to its waxy leaves and its roots are probably more troublesome. In quite a few ways, invasive bamboo species are identical or even more problematic than Japanese Knotweed.

No – The Japanese Knotweed narrative evolved due to fear, misunderstanding and a lack of expertise. 15 years ago, we had no real understanding of how to deal with Japanese Knotweed (at least not in the same way as today). We had never battled a plant which could “break through concrete”, yet somehow we have not only managed to survive, but we have achieved better control than ever before. Just because invasive bamboo species is a “new threat” doesn’t mean we have completed full circle and begin the same narrative of another uncontrollable plant. Although I’m sure we have a lot to learn, we currently sit in a very comfortable position, being able to utilise all our past experiences and industry expertise to quickly, efficiently and effectively control a majority of terrestrial INNPs including invasive bamboo species.



Craig Godbehere

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