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New project aims to eradicate invasive plants from National Trust properties

By Kyle Ritchie

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The National Trust for Scotland’s effort to eradicate invasive plants is focussing on the north-east this autumn.

A team of contractors are removing Rhododendron ponticum, a non-native species which has been starting to get out of control on the conservation charity’s historic estates in Aberdeenshire, crowding out other plant species.

Traditionally grown as cover for game birds such as pheasant and partridge, the plants are out-growing their original intention.

The removal work is part of Project Wipeout, the conservation charity’s push to eradicate invasive plants, including Japanese Knotweed, American Skunk Cabbage and Rhododendron ponticum, at a number of its sites across Scotland, and is funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Work has initially focused in the north and west of Scotland where the largest areas of this plant tends to dominate.

Now attention has turned to other parts of the country, with activity starting in Aberdeenshire. The first two properties that will be targeted are Fyvie and Crathes.

Rhododendron ponticum at Fyvie Castle.
Rhododendron ponticum at Fyvie Castle.

It is hoped that the project will give native woodland flora the chance to flourish once again, as well as removing the invasive plant as it has started to dominate in certain places.

Chris Wardle, gardens and designed landscape manager for Aberdeenshire and Angus said: “The north-east is known for its magnificent castles and estates but unfortunately Rhododendron ponticum, although pretty, brings with it a host of problems from pushing out native wildlife to harbouring certain diseases.

"It is starting to become dominant in certain locations. By removing it we are doing our bit for natural habitats as well as protecting the wider landscapes and woodlands to ensure they are great resources for nature, as well as recreation for our members and supporters.”

He added: “As the climate changes and shifts, now is the time to act to avoid larger problems in the future.”

Head of charities at People’s Postcode Lottery Laura Chow said: “It’s fantastic that players of People’s Postcode Lottery are supporting the National Trust for Scotland’s important work to protect and restore Scotland’s native species, making them great habitats for wildlife and beautiful places for people too.”

Project Wipeout covers National Trust for Scotland sites spanning Scotland – from Brodie Castle near Forres to Culzean Country Park in Ayrshire.

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