£10m to rid Snowdonia National Park of rhododendrons
Work to remove rhododendrons which are growing out of control in Snowdonia National Park will cost around £10m and take at least five years.
The plant has spread "like wild fire" and now covers more than 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares) of the park.
Despite an eradication programme, finding the £10m needed to battle the species has been a problem with just £800,000 raised so far.
The plant was introduced by gardeners in Snowdonia in the 19th Century.
End Quote Rhys Owen Snowdonia National Park
When rhododendrons flower each plant produces one million seedlings which are spread on the wind”
Rhys Owen, the park's head of agriculture and conservation, said the rhododendron ponticum species found in Snowdonia thrived in the area and had the ability to spread "like wild fire".
A concerted programme to control the species was launched in 2008 by the national park authority, alongside teams from Natural Resources Wales, The National Trust and Gwynedd council.
Mr Owen said the partnership had raised £800,000 but it was nowhere near the £10m needed to eradicate it.
- Rhododendrons are found primarily in the northern hemisphere
- They were brought to Britain in the late 18th Century
- Some types are now a pest in Britain, because they out-compete many native plants
- Their leaves contain toxins some animals find inedible
- Rhododendron ponticum grows a leaf canopy so dense it blocks out sunlight
- It has been shown to reduce the number of earthworms, birds and plants and an area's ability to regenerate
Source: BBC Nature
The worst-hit parts of Snowdonia include Madly, south and north of the Mawddach, the Vale of Ffestiniog, Glaslyn and Gwynant areas, Beddgelert and Betws y Coed.
"If we had a steady stream of funding or managed to raise the £10m it would take at least five years to eradicate the rhododendrons across the park," said Mr Owen. "We have some very fragile habitats and it out-competes everything and smothers everything.
"It even hosts Phytophthora ramorum which is killing larch trees and it can kill animals that graze on its leaves.Blacklist
"If that's not enough, when rhododendrons flower each plant produces one million seedlings which are spread on the wind."
He added: "We failed to secure EU funding in 2012, but we are constantly looking for new opportunities to bid again so we can solve the problem we have with this plant."
Snowdonia National Park's problems with the plant come as the European Parliament is voting on a bill to draw up a blacklist to fight invasive alien species such as killer shrimp and Japanese knotweed spreading.
The list was going to be restricted to 50, but will now have no limit. It is not clear which species will be banned.
Mr Owen said it was easy to blacklist invasive species but there had to be money available to back it up.
In its latest battle against the rhododendron, the national park is spending £250,000 trying to control and eradicate it in Nant Gwynant and Beddgelert.