Thursday, 13 August 2015

Huttons Ambo Parish Council helps combat alien invaders!

Huttons Ambo Parish Council helps combat alien invaders!

The Chairman and Clerk to Huttons Ambo Parish Council, Andy Dorman and Jem Charles, have enabled one of the worst infestations of Giant Hogweed on the River Derwent to be controlled. By helping the East Yorkshire Rivers Trust’s Derwent Restoration Officer, John Shannon, find and then treat the plants with herbicide, it is hoped that this invader will have been halted in its tracks.

Giant Hogweed is a native of the Caucasus Mountains, introduced into Western Europe in the nineteenth century as a garden plant. It really is a giant, reaching over 3 metres/ten feet in height and doubtless made a very impressive addition to Victorian gardens. (See pictures) Unfortunately it has escaped and in the wild has three major drawbacks: its sap can cause serious skin burns by making it very sensitive to sunlight, its seeds enable it to spread rapidly and its huge leaves smother native plants. The plant has become a serious invader of riversides and canals, damaging the native flora, and stories of burns to people encountering the plant are common every summer.

John Shannon & Giant Hogweed (c)
In Huttons Ambo parish there is a large patch of Giant Hogweed growing next to the River Derwent.  It is down river of the low village and well beyond easy access, which is fortunate as far as public safety is concerned, but has enabled the colony to spread apparently unnoticed for several years and makes its control difficult.  Enter the Parish Council!  Last month Andy and Jem alerted John and were able to take him to the precise spot by boat, loaned by kind permission of the owner, Richard Hopkinson.  After struggling through dense riverside vegetation, the party reached the first of the offending hogweeds and John got to work with his specialist equipment – a stem injection kit that ensures no weedkiller can reach any other plants or the river itself. 

Treating Giant Hogweed (c)
This would be important on any river, but is particularly vital here where the Derwent is so valuable for nature conservation. This classic lowland river with its diverse flora and fauna is not only a site of Special Scientific Interest (national importance) but also a Special Area of Conservation (European importance).

 A second visit a week later confirmed that most of the injected plants were clearly affected by the herbicide and any that had been missed could be tackled.  Next year the team plans to return to ensure that any new recruits are also killed before they can set seed and infect another stretch of this beautiful river.  John commented  "All credit to yourselves for alerting me to the problem and the partnership working has ensured that this potentially dangerous plant is now on our radar and will be addressed until we eradicate it even if this takes several years."

Giant Hogweed one week after treatment (c)

 Finally, the importance of vigilance by everyone who lives and works in the parish was highlighted when Andy was told of three more Giant Hogweed plants in a remote spot some distance from the river. There was no time to lose, as mature plants are setting seed now, but quick action by the Parish Council meant that within twenty four hours the plants had been injected by John. Another potential colony stopped in its tracks!

Jem Charles

© 2015

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