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Page last updated at 11:39 GMT, Friday, 30 July 2010 12:39 UK
Rhododendron clearance in Dunster Forest
They may look pretty but these shrubs reduce biodiversity

A five year project is set to begin in the Dunster Forest to clear invasive rhododendrons across 12.5 hectares.

The shrubs form dense, impenetrable thickets which make it impossible for other plants to grow underneath them.

The Crown Estate which owns the land also wants to prevent the spread of a toxic fungus called phytophara which could attack other wooded plants.

Shrub clearance will take place all year round apart from the nesting season which runs from April to July.

The work has been made possible with a grant of £25,000 and clearance will begin on 4.6 hectares of shrub on Black Ball, west of Gallox Hill.

Graham Smith, forest manager at the Crown Estate, said: "They're reasonably easy to get rid of but in our case it's the terrain that's the main constraint - a lot of the rhododendron is on steep terrain.

"It's really a manual operation - if you say to a contractor who's cutting it, 'how difficult is it?', he'll even say 'it's not easy'."

It is hoped that by getting rid of the rhododendrons, other native plants will be able to grow, like bluebells, heather, bilberries, blueberries and ferns.

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