Appeal for reporting of invasive plants

Emily Iles, Tweed Forum Project Office, with a skunk cabbage.
Emily Iles, Tweed Forum Project Office, with a skunk cabbage.

The Tweed Forum is calling for help from anglers, walkers and members of the public to spot and report invasive plant species in the Borders and north Northumberland this summer.

The organisation is embarking on its 15th annual programme of invasive species control in an effort to improve river safety and access.

Invasive plant species pose a serious threat to the UK’s native plants and spread rapidly.

To help the public identify and report sightings of the plants, the forum will be posting pictures of them on its Facebook page.

Led by Tweed Forum Project Officer Emily Iles, a team of around 30 volunteers is heading to the banks of the Tweed and its tributaries this month to tackle the first plant on the hit list – Giant Hogweed.

Giant Hogweed can grown up to 16ft tall and has toxic sap which can cause severe burns and blistering if it comes into contact with the skin and so must be treated with extreme care. It also leaves large patches of bare soil when it dies back in the winter making them very susceptible to erosion during a flood.

Japanese Knotweed, American Skunk Cabbage and Himalayan Balsam will also be targeted by Tweed Forum and its volunteer and contractor teams in the coming weeks and months.

Emily Iles said; “Each year, the Invasive Species team walk hundreds of miles of watercourses and deal with thousands of invasive plants in order to ensure our communities, tourist industries and native biodiversity are protected. We now receive very little public funding for our work and rely on much-needed donations of time and money from landowners, and on the goodwill of our fantastic volunteers and the local community. Local organizations and members of the public are crucial for reporting sightings of invasive species so we hope that they will again be vigilant when they are out enjoying the countryside this summer and report any sightings to us so they can be treated effectively.”

It is thought that invasive plant species were introduced into the Tweed catchment in the early 19th century through private exotic botanical collections and the textile industry, where sees from plant species from all over the world arrived on sheep fleece and were deposited in the water. The river then acted as the main transportation network for the plants, which were able to outcompete native species and dominate the countryside. In the case of Giant Hogweed, each plant has between 30,000 and 80,000 seeds, which are capable of surviving in the soil for up to 15 years.

Anyone spotting an invasive plant species should call the Tweed Forum on 01896 849723.