Fears have been raised after pigmyweed, also known as crassula helmsii, wiped out several native plant species in the Lake District, and the area’s most pristine lakes could be its next target. Pigmyweed was initially sold in Britain as an ornamental plant for domestic ponds. But sales of the plant were soon banned by the UK Government after it spread into rives and lakes throughout the country, causing devastating damage.

Jo McCurrie from the West Cumbria Rivers Trust warned pigmyweed has “taken over”.

She told Sky News: “The pigmyweed has found a habitat with no natural predators and no natural forms of control.

“It out-competes native plants. It’s taken over.”

Sara Burrows, a clean water campaigner, is fearful the damage pigmyweed could cause to the UK’s most precious lakes.

She said: “We want to keep these lakes pristine for our children’s children and visitors.

“They are the reason people come here because they are so beautiful.”

Coronavirus lockdown measures continue to be eased throughout the UK, meaning a likely surge in visitor numbers to the Lake District, especially during the summer weeks and months.

The National Trust is urging people to take extra care when moving between lakes.

Thomas Burditt from the National Trust’s Northern Lakes team warned pigmyweed could “choke out all other life” if it makes its way into the waters, warning “it’s very difficult to get rid of”.

He said: “The lakes here are a bit like a time capsule left over from after the last Ice Age.

“You’ve almost got a fresh water equivalent of a coral reef under there.

“The problem is, as soon as this weed hits, it chokes out all other life and it’s very difficult to get rid of.”

He added: “We’re asking people to do three things: clean, check and dry.

“So, when you’ve been in, make sure you clean you, your dog, your canoe, whatever.

“Then check to make sure there are no bits of green leaf anywhere, and dry it in the sun before you go into one of the really nice lakes.

“Then hopefully you won’t be taking the plant with you.”

Pigmyweed was first brought to the UK from Tasmania more than a century ago, and was initially advertised to the nation’s gardeners as an “oxygenating plant” for their ponds.

But experts soon realised its ability to grow all year round and establish itself in a new body of water from a tiny fragment of stem, meaning it quickly began to spread.

The deadly plant was first officially recorded in the wild in Essex in 1956, and is now actively invading thousands of sites throughout the UK.

Pigmyweed can even now be found as far north as the Isle of Skye, Sutherland and Orkney.

source: express.co.uk


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