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Curse of the skunk cabbage

Last modified: 28 September 2012

View of Insh Marshes

RSPB staff and volunteers at Insh Marshes now have to manage invasive American skunk cabbage

Image: Andy Hay

RSPB Scotland is warning that an invasive plant species from overseas – American skunk cabbage – is proving a menace on one of its nature reserves and poses a threat to native wild plants.  

Karen Sutcliffe, site manager of the charity’s Insh Marshes nature reserve in Strathspey, said: “American skunk cabbage is wildly available in garden centres for use in bog gardens. However, it can all too easily get into the wider countryside where it can become an invasive pest. Unfortunately it has reached Insh Marshes where there is a danger of it getting out of hand and out-competing our native species. 

“Fortunately we have a great team of volunteers at Insh Marshes who have been working hard to eradicate it from the reserve. But it’s a big job as we have to be careful to remove all the roots and, of course, we would rather spend our time doing other conservation work.” 

Karen added: “I would ask any gardeners who have this plant to keep an eye on it and not to let it get into any nearby watercourses.” 

Stephen Corcoran, biodiversity officer at the Cairngorms National Park Authority, said: “The Cairngorms National Park is one of the most important areas for biodiversity in the UK with a fascinating range of native plants and animals. We want to keep this a special place and it is vital that we all help to prevent non-native species from becoming established. This is because some non-native plants and animals can threaten the National Park’s biodiversity by out-breeding or out-growing our native plants and animals. These non-native species can spread diseases and result in significant economic impacts on our agriculture, forestry and fisheries. I recommend that you choose native plants or plants suggested in Plantlife’s “A guide to plants you can use in place of invasive non-natives” leaflet available on their website (www.plantlife.org.uk) in your garden. By making this choice you will help to prevent the spread of invasive plants like skunk cabbage.”

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