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New way of curbing rhododendron

16 October 09 23:00 GMT

Two woodland workers have come up with a low-cost technique for tackling a problematic non-native plant species without using chemicals.

Rhododendron ponticum can force out native species where it grows.

Gordon French and Donald Kennedy, from Morvern Community Woodlands, have now been asked to give demonstrations of their "lever and mulch" method.

The method involves levering out bushes then using the mulched plant to stop new growth getting light.

Donald Kennedy explained: "Lever and mulch is very simple, though those who use it require specific training.

"It consists of systematically dismantling rhododendron bushes, using the plant's own stems as levers, and then covering the place they were growing with their remains to exclude light and prevent re-growth. A little work with a hammer, then and in the following season, is all that's needed to finish the job."

'Hearty lunch'

The men have been asked to give a demonstration of their technique to Skye and Lochalsh Environment Forum and Wester Ross Fisheries Trust at Kyle of Lochalsh and the National Trust for Scotland's Inverewe Gardens.

Forum chairman James Merryweather said: "Conventional methods of eradication are labour intensive, hazardous when herbicides are used and also - of particular concern in times of recession - very costly.

"After rhododendron, land recovery can be painfully slow. None of this needs be so."

Highland councillor Audrey Sinclai said the method was eco-friendly.

She added that it could be done by a fit person using gloved hands, booted feet, bodyweight, hammer, saw and a "hearty lunch".

Earlier this week, a conservation expert said "extreme measures" must be taken on occasions to destroy non-native species to better protect Scotland's flora and fauna.

Dr Kirsty Park, of the University of Stirling, said sometimes decisions to cull a plant or animal were not being taken quickly enough.

She said such action was also necessary to avoid "homogenising the world's species".

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