Volunteers get to work on the weeds choking our streams and ponds
The menace of invasive non-native plants is increasing in the Westcountry with Himalayan balsam, Japanese knotweed and various pond weeds crowding out other species.
Now a new threat from the innocuously named parrots feather is adding to the headache. A concerted effort is under way in parts of the region to try to eradicate it. But it is back-breaking work.
Recently volunteers from the Brandis Corner Wildlife Group in North Devon teamed up with members of the Hatherleigh Moor Management Committee and the Northern Devon Nature Improvement Area to remove the invasive alien weed from a pond on Hatherleigh Moor.
Matt Edworthy from the North Devon Biosphere team who is coordinating the effort explained why the work is so important. "Parrot's feather is not native to the UK and is very fast-growing and invasive," he said.
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"It has rapidly taken over the Hatherleigh pond at the expense of native plants that provide far richer habitats for wildlife. It shows why we need to be concerned about the spread of some non-native species in this area and how local communities can come together to find ways of dealing with them.
"There are 51 parishes within the Northern Devon Nature Improvement Area and every one probably has some invasive species around and as part of that project, we want to know where they are.
"The Northern Devon Nature Improvement Area is supporting a national project called Plant Tracker that provides a simple way for people to find the invasive plants on their patch, photograph them and then using a website, submit their sightings to a national database. This is real 'citizen science' and people can find out how to get involved on the NIA website."
Volunteers using a dinghy and waders pulled up the weed from the pond, taking care not to inadvertently spread it to other areas; parrots feather can grow from tiny remnants of the adult plant.
Barrie Lewis from the Brandis Corner Wildlife Group, which provided most of the volunteers for the weed-pulling exercise, is clear about the problems that parrots feather can cause and the need to take action.
"The willingness of members to take part in this cold, wet and physically demanding task at Hatherleigh shows the high level of commitment and determination of local people to help preserve and enhance the wildlife of local habitats," he said.
"We realised just how serious the spread of this weed had become. We are pleased to be working with the NIA and other groups again to do something about it."