Everyone with a garden is urged to beware of invasive and illegal plants which could land you in a fine of up to £34,000. With the weather getting warmer and the days getting longer, spring is on the way and soon it will be time to spruce up your outdoor spaces.
Experts say it’s important to be careful with plants that are banned by government legislation. If you don’t eradicate these unwanted species, you could be fined for allowing them to flourish and spread.
And with over 50,000 Japanese knuckle infestations across the UK, including in parts of Birmingham and the Black Country, there’s good reason to take action. People have been fined thousands of pounds for allowing illegal plants to grow in their gardens, but many homeowners don’t know how to spot them.
Here are the top ‘criminal plants’ that can take up residence in gardens, as well as the fines homeowners could face for having them, Power Sheds garden experts. We have also included a gallery of images of all the plants, which is included below.
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1. Japanese knotweed
Japanese knotweed is one of the most invasive plants. It has bamboo-like stems and clusters of small white flowers that can cause significant damage to property and infrastructure. It is difficult to eradicate once established, so it is even more important to avoid it in your garden.
If you’ve seen Japanese knuckle growing in your garden, it’s important to get professional help to remove it, as even the smallest stem left in the ground can grow back. If you are selling a property, be sure to carry out a professional survey. This will help protect you from any legal action from buyers if knuckles are later discovered on the property.
Fines for Japanese knuckle can run as high as £34,000, but a recent lawsuit against a seller whose property had been colonized by the plant ran to £200,000. Therefore, it is essential to know what to look for.
2. Spear Thistle
Spear thistle is a noxious weed in the UK and it is currently illegal to allow it to grow in your garden. The plant has spiky leaves and purple flowers and can spread rapidly, causing damage to crops and other vegetation. If discovered, fines for it can cost up to £2,500.
3. Common ragwort
Common ragwort is easily recognized by its bright yellow flowers and feathery leaves. Although one of the most common weeds, this toxic plant is harmful to livestock, with a fine for growing this illegal plant of up to £5,000.
4. Wide leaf spring
Like the mast thistle, the broadleaf dock also damages crops and vegetation. It can easily spread throughout the UK as it is not sensitive to weather conditions. The plant can be recognized by the broad leaves and spikes of small yellow flowers. If they are found in your yard, you can be fined £2,500.
5. Curly spring
Curly dock has distinctive curled leaves and spikes of small yellow flowers. It can spread quickly and is a flexible weed. Fines of up to £2,500 can be imposed for allowing it to grow on your property.
6. pontic rhododendron
The Rhododendron Ponticum, which grows to considerable heights, is another invasive plant on the list. The plant has evergreen leaves and large clusters of pink or purple flowers, and is poisonous to vegetation and wildlife. It’s difficult to eradicate once established, so it’s even more important to avoid growing it, otherwise you could face a £5,000 fine.
7. Himalayan balm
While it may look pretty, don’t be fooled by Himalayan balm. Perhaps one of the fastest to spread, each plant has around 800 seeds that are easily carried by wind, animals, or water. The plant bears spikes of showy pink or purple flowers, and fines can be as high as £2,500.
8. Giant hogweed
This toxic plant is harmful to humans, as its chemicals can cause major skin injuries. While for some it’s just a burning sensation, for others it can cause permanent scarring. This is why giant hogweed is considered illegal and fines can go up to £5,000. It can be recognized by its large white flowers and imposing height.
9. New Zealand Pigmyweed
Notorious for killing off the other plants you might be trying to grow in your garden, New Zealand Pigmyweed poses a threat to everything around it. It is an invasive plant and the sale of this seed has been prohibited since 2014. The plant has small green leaves and clusters of tiny white flowers, and it can also harm aquatic environments. If you are found guilty of allowing it to grow unchecked, you could face a fine of up to £2,500.
What to do if you find invasive species
The Royal Horticultural Society says there are 1,402 types of non-native plants established in the wild in Britain, of which 108 have a negative impact on natural habitats. There are 36 plants listed in the EU regulations to control invasive species that still apply in the UK, as well as other rules specific to England, Wales, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
For example, Japanese honeysuckle, giant cane, and Himalayan knuckle are banned only in Northern Ireland. Spanish bluebells are only considered illegal in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Cotoneaster, Montbretia and Virginia creeper are only banned in England and Wales.
The RHS says that if you already have these species in your garden or on your land, you are not likely to be prosecuted simply for having them, unless you don’t get rid of them as soon as you realize they are a nuisance. He says that people should take all possible steps to remove invasive species, even if they didn’t plant them in the first place, so they don’t end up spreading into wild habitats.
Most can be eradicated with repeated doses of herbicide. But if the plant covers a large area, it is best to hire a specialized contractor. Aquatic weeds can be pulled out of the water by hand and composted or allowed to dry and then burned.