Working with gardeners to identify potential invasive ornamental garden plants: testing a citizen science approach

Abstract

The introduction and use of ornamental plants in gardens is the main pathway for plant invasions globally. High numbers of ornamental plants in gardens may not have started an invasion process yet and are a risk for possible future invasions. Gardeners could be among the first to notice plant traits that have also been recognised to contribute to the potential risk of ornamental plants to escape from cultivation. We asked gardeners in Britain to report ornamental plants that were spreading within their gardens and difficult to control using an online survey. Gardeners submitted 201 records of 121 species of which 104 are non-native in Britain. Most non-native species reported were already recorded and wide-spread in Britain outside cultivation, but about a third are not widely distributed, and eight species are not known outside cultivation. Gardeners’ control efforts were mainly directed to confine plants from further spread, but they also tried to eradicate many of the reported plants. Our results provide evidence that gardeners’ knowledge could help to identify potentially problematic invasive plants early in the invasion process. Even with low levels of participation all evidence collected would be very valuable in official risk management procedures as well as supporting legal obligations on early detection, surveillance and monitoring. At the same time, however, raising awareness of the problem by actively collaborating with gardeners could be of equal importance for the prevention of ornamental plant invasions in the future.

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Acknowledgements

We are very grateful to all participants in the survey, people and organisations, who helped to distribute the survey, in particular the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, and to Pauline Pears for helpful advice on the survey design. We also thank Mark van Kleunen and the GloNAF consortium for checking our species list against the GloNAF database. Coventry University funded the project with a pump-priming award.

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Correspondence to Katharina Dehnen-Schmutz.

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Dehnen-Schmutz, K., Conroy, J. Working with gardeners to identify potential invasive ornamental garden plants: testing a citizen science approach. Biol Invasions 20, 3069–3077 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-018-1759-3

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Keywords

  • Ornamental plants
  • Plant invasion
  • Citizen science
  • Garden
  • Horticulture
  • Non-native plants
  • Great Britain