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Rhododendron: Devil in Disguise?

Invasive rhododendron ponticum

It has such beautiful, large trusses of purple flowers showing in May-June each year, that it’s near impossible to miss this striking shrub. Rhododendron is a favourite in gardens throughout the UK, as it’s a relatively easy plant to grow, it’s an evergreen, is fairly low maintenance and makes great hedges. It can be bought in most garden centres.

However, rhododendron ponticum is listed as an invasive, non-native species in the UK. It is poisonous to livestock and, when left unchecked, it can create such a dense shade that it effectively crowds out native species. It can also carry a disease capable of killing oak, larch and beech. It’s become such a problem in some parts of the UK that Matt Elliot (Conservation Adviser) has referred to it as a “devil in disguise”.

In a recent trip to Thrunton Wood, it was apparent that rhododendron was prolific in some areas. It is stunning to look at, as the following images demonstrate.

rhododendron Thrunton Wood multi-1
rhododendron Thrunton Wood multi-2
rhododendron Thrunton Wood multi-3

Take care with disposal

The Royal Horticultural Society encourages gardeners to take care with managing and disposing of rhododendroon ponticum. They can also offer advice about growing alternative non-invasive plants.

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