Birdwatch News Archive
This clump of Skunk Cabbage growing wild on a small stream at Alby Craft Centre in Norfolk illustrates how easy it is for such plants to escape and establish themselves. Photo: Evelyn Simak (commons.wikimedia.org).
Skunk Cabbage invades Scotland
Posted on: 01 Oct 2012
RSPB Scotland has warned that Skunk Cabbage, an invasive plant species from America, is encroaching on its Insh Marshes reserve in Scotland, posing a threat to native wild plants.
Karen Sutcliffe, site manager of the reserve in Strathspey, said: “American Skunk Cabbage is wildly available in garden centres for use in boggy gardens. However, it can all too easily get into the wider countryside where it can become an invasive pest. Unfortunately, it has reached Insh Marshes, where there is a danger of it getting out of hand and out-competing our native species. Fortunately we have a great team of volunteers at Insh Marshes who have been working hard to eradicate it from the reserve. But it’s a big job, as we have to be careful to remove all the roots and, of course, we would rather spend our time doing other conservation work.”
She added: “I would ask any gardeners who have this plant to keep an eye on it and not to let it get into any nearby watercourses.”
Skunk Cabbage is a close relative of the familiar Arum Lily, which is native to Britain and a member of the same family, the Araceae. Skunk Cabbage originates from north-east Asia and western North America, where it grows in waterlogged areas alongside rivers and lakes, and produces a strong scent that is very attractive to pollinating insects. The species outcompetes native wetland plants like Yellow Flag and several reed and sedge species, and is already established at many sites across England.
Stephen Corcoran, biodiversity officer at the Cairngorms National Park Authority, said: “Cairngorms NP is one of the most important areas for biodiversity in the UK, with a fascinating range of native plants and animals. We want to keep this a special place and it is vital that we all help to prevent non-native species from becoming established. This is because some non-native plants and animals can threaten the National Park’s biodiversity by out-breeding or out-growing our native plants and animals.
"These non-native species can spread diseases and result in significant economic impacts on our agriculture, forestry and fisheries. I recommend that you choose native plants or plants suggested in Plantlife’s A guide to plants you can use in place of invasive non-natives leaflet, available for free on their website to use in your garden. This will help to prevent the spread of invasive plants like Skunk Cabbage.”
Skunk Cabbage joins a long list of invasive aliens that reek ecological havoc in our natural habitats, often preventing native insects from getting the pollen and nectar of indigenous plants that they are adapted to, and crowding out our native wild plants to create a less varied or productive habitat. The more notorious of these species include Canadian Waterweed, Himalayan Balsam, Japanese Knotweed and various Cotoneaster and Rhododendron. Some, like Giant Hogweed with sap that produces a burning sensation on the skin, pose a significant risk to humans, too.
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