EU LEGISLATION COULD AFFECT RHODODENDRON GROWING IN THE UK – YOUR SUPPORT IS NEEDED – ACT NOW TO MAKE SURE YOUR VOICE IS HEARD!

A whole raft of EU legislation currently under consideration could have a serious negative impact on Britain’s horticultural sector and on gardening in the UK. One item is of immediate concern to the rhododendron-growing community and warrants our ACTION NOW.

INVASIVE SPECIES LEGISLATION

The Invasive Species bill concerns invasive non-native species and proposes a ban on the import, transport, trade or even growing or keeping of listed species. Whilst this seems common sense, particularly with regard to invasive aquatic plants and others such as Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed, there is concern that certain garden plants, including cultivated rhododendrons which pose no invasive threat, could unjustly be affected.
As the bill is currently drafted, it seems that the definition of ‘species’ in this case includes hybrids or any selections or varieties of that species. It is widely recognised that cultivated rhododendrons do not impose any invasive problems (unlike the wild ponticum rhododendron which can become a problem if it is not managed).
If the European Council deem that Rhododendron ponticum should be on a Union-wide invasive species ‘blacklist’ and it becomes law, without careful implementation all hybrids with Rhododendron ponticum in their parentage could be outlawed and rendered illegal. Imagine what that would mean for our gardens, parks and estates. Imagine the complications of identification . . . it doesn’t bear thinking about.
We need to ensure that the European Commission, and most importantly DEFRA, who are responsible for implementing UK policy, are aware that innocuous garden plants such as rhododendrons will be caught up in this legislation if it is not thought through and amended.

ACTION REQUESTED:
Please help by writing to your MEP and MP to ensure that rhododendrons are not classified as invasive plants.
We have suggested some text below that you may wish to paste /copy and personalise and email to your MP.
There is very little time – the vote is expected to be held on 15 April 2014 and could become UK law as early as 2016.
Whilst the RHS and the Horticultural Trades Association have been working with DEFRA to help secure the best outcome for both the horticultural industry and gardeners alike, little has been achieved to date.
Please act now to save the rhododendron!

Suggested text for a letter to your MP/MEP:

I am writing with regard to the EU Invasive species bill that is currently being considered by the European Parliament and is likely to be voted upon on 15 April. The bill aims to introduce strict control measures for invasive non-native species across the EU. These measures relate to species considered to be of ‘Union Concern’ and involve a ban on import, transport, trade or even growing or keeping a listed species.
Whilst I recognise there is a need to deal with invasive non-native species such as Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam, I am very concerned that the rhododendron could be an unintentional target for an across Europe ban.
This issue was raised by the RHS at a hearing of the UK Parliament’s Environment Audit Committee in January 2014, and highlighted in recent press articles, and despite all this, it seems likely that the legislation will be approved without amendment.
Cultivated rhododendrons (as opposed to the wild ponticum rhododendron) are not invasive plants and have been a welcome sight in the parklands and gardens of the UK since Victorian times. The consequences of the proposed legislation will lead to the unintentional ‘blacklisting’ of rhododendrons unless something is done now to prevent this.
 I would urge you to support my concerns and bring some influence on your Parliamentary colleagues in order to avoid the destruction of these historic plants.
I understand that the implementation of the bill in the UK will be by DEFRA and I would ask you to help inform and influence those colleagues to facilitate the right outcome so we can enjoy these plants for generations to come.

To find your local MEP, you can visit www.europarl.org.uk/en/your_meps/list-meps-by-region.html

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