There are lots of souvenirs you can bring back from your holidays but green-fingered travellers should resist temptation and not bring any flowers or plants home with them after a holiday abroad this year.
Why? Because there is an increased risk of the Xylella virus spreading across Europe. It’s such a concern amongst the horticultural community that imported lavender was banned at the Chelsea Flower Show this year. This caused an issue for many garden designers as lavender doesn’t naturally bloom in time for the show in the UK. Some were lucky enough, however, to find a few select growers that could work their magic in time for the big day.
WHAT IS XYLELLA?
Although there are many pests and diseases that can be imported on flowers and plants Xylella is the disease that everyone is talking about. Xylella Fastidiosa is native to the US, where it causes disease to spread amongst many important crops from citrus to coffee. Until recently, it didn’t affect Europe, but in 2013 Xylella was identified as the cause of the death of olive trees in southern Italy. The concern is that it will be brought to the UK, where our trees are already under siege from a whole host of diseases.
Although this disease is the topic of the moment there are around 1,000 pests and diseases on the pest list and there’s probably 100 more being added every year no one knows what the impact will be across our entire ecosystem if plants are bought in without any checks.
To give you an idea, our English oak is under threat. And the knock-on from that is how many species does the oak tree host? It’s our biggest wildlife hosting tree. So all of a sudden, the effect is on our wildlife.
So how can we help?
We can definitely think a lot more about where we’re buying our plants. We should focus on buying British plants.
DEFRA are starting a campaign at ports and airports in the UK pleading with holidaymakers not to bring foreign plants back into the country. But it’s very much driven by the policies that the governments of those countries hold. As amateur gardeners and nature lovers it is up to us to act responsibly and not transport pests and viruses just because of a desire to have a plant.