The Royal Horticultural Society Advisory Service is asking anyone travelling overseas not to bring back plant cuttings, even if the plant looks healthy.
The UK’s foremost gardening charity is concerned that if travellers take cuttings from plants that catch their eye they may run the risk of bringing in a new pest or disease. In most years the RHS detects two or three new plant diseases and pests from samples submitted to its science department for analysis. Some, like the Fuchsia Gall Mite and Horse Chestnut Leaf Mining Moth, have become established and have the potential to spoil millions of plants.
“We don’t want to be kill-joys,” says Guy Barter, Head of the RHS Advisory Service. “But we do know of some gardeners who, on seeing a plant that is new to them, take cuttings and bring them home. Unfortunately this increases the risk of new diseases or pests being imported. Seeds are, on the other hand, much safer.”
The advice from the RHS is that holiday-makers should buy seeds instead of taking cuttings. In general UK citizens are allowed to bring back up to five packets of seeds from recognised commercial growers.
“There are a number of different ways that new pests and diseases could potentially reach our shores,” says Guy. “They can, for example, arrive on aircraft, on timber with its bark still on and perhaps through commercial imports of plant stocks, although stringent precautions are in place to make sure this does not happen. It is feasible that holiday-makers, bringing fresh plant material home, could inadvertently import a new pest or disease or even weeds. So with everyone getting ready for their holidays we thought we should remind people of the risk they take when bringing that innocent looking cutting back.”
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