Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Peter took these photos yesterday of the Rhododendrons at Parc Glynllifon and Plas Glyn y Weddw. They always look gorgeous at this time of year, but their is a darker side to these plants.
Rhododendrons are not native to the British Isles, but were introduced as ornamental plants from Asia and Eastern Europe during the Victorian period. The most vigorous of these is the species Rhododendron Ponticum, which has become an invasive weed in Snowdonia, Scotland and parts of southern England. R. Ponticum is an incredibly vigorous plant that rapidly shades out slower growing native species such as laurels and sapling trees. Each bush can release thousands of viable seeds which can take root in tiny cracks and crevices in rocks, and can also spread by sending up suckers from their roots. There are many hillsides in Snowdonia swamped with dense thickets of R. Ponticum. The dense shade and acidic leaf litter created by the plants are completely hostile to other species. "Rhodi-bashing" or clearing hillsides with groups of volunteers has become a constant battle for big land owners such as the National Trust and the Snowdonia National Park. Often the only way to ensure the plants are dead is to chop them down, then inject each trunk individually with weedkiller. The Snowdonia Society regularly organises Rhodi-Bashing days, during which volunteers get to vent their destructive urges in a good cause.