Invasive plant making its presence felt on the Isle of Wight

By Richard Wright

Published on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 - 16:48


Invasive plant making its presence felt on the Isle of Wight

Three-cornered leek. Picture by Meneerke Bloem


I RECEIVED an interesting e-mail from Lois Kelly, who lives at Sidmouth, Devon, about a garden and countryside pest which has really taken off in the south of England and crossed The Solent some years ago too.

She took her concerns to the Natural History Museum and Prof Fred Rumsey confirmed it is illegal to plant the three-cornered leek (allium triquentrum), which looks a bit like a bluebell but has a three-cornered stem and white flowers.

What seems like a pretty white flower to begin with then smells strongly of onions and knocks out our native bluebells, Lois tells me.

"The public need education about this species, to dig up the white onions, to constantly mow, or at worst weedkill," said Lois.

Her concern is echoed by the Island’s former county ecologist Dr Colin Pope, who now volunteers at Ventnor Botanic Garden, and admits he was an early fan.

He says: "It’s one of those plants that seems to respond to our changing climate.

"In the 1980s, I visited the Isles of Scilly in spring and was enchanted to find it growing in the fields and verges in great abundance.

"Subsequently, when I lived in Plymouth, I found it was common on roadsides around the coastal villages.

"However, on the Island at that time it was a real rarity with just a single small patch on a roadside at Ashey where it had been known since 1967."

By 2000, it was starting to pop up in more places scattered across the Island. Today, it seems to be everywhere.

If anyone has it in their garden, they will know how invasive it is. The bulbs multiply rapidly and each plant produces many heads of hundreds of seeds, which germinate freely.

Once you have it, it is very difficult to eradicate and you will find this attractive plant in hedgerows and verges widely across the Island.

"It may become a scheduled non-native species but now it is so well established, it would be very difficult to eliminate," said Colin.

"Like so many effective weedy species, if you leave just a few plants they will re-grow with vigour.

"I think part of the problem has been caused by people digging it up from their gardens and disposing of it on waste ground and by roadsides."


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