Episode 56: Invasive Plants with Tomos Jones

This week I’m speaking to Tomos Jones. Tomos is a PhD student at the University of Reading where he’s currently researching invasive plants. There are 17000 plant species from all over the world currently residing in our gardens here in the UK. A small percentage of these manage to jump the garden fence and survive in the wild and a smaller percentage still become a problem. But although it’s a small percentage that become invasive, anyone who’s done battle with Japanese Knotweed knows they can be a huge problem. Tomos is working to predict which plants may become a problem in the future, using a range of forecasting techniques, coupled with help from gardeners.

This episode is released in support of one of our independent nurseries who are still delivering plants to customers, so please check out Ivy Hatch Nurseries www.ivyhatchplantsupplies.co.uk

About Tomos Jones:

Tomos Jones is a NERC SCENARIO PhD student at the University of Reading and a passionate gardener. His research focuses on the 17,000 plant species – introduced from all over the world – which are found in our gardens. A small number of these ornamental plants have become invasive, having a detrimental impact on native biodiversity. Climate change could provide opportunities for more plants to become a problem. Tomos’ challenge is to identify which plants might become our future invaders. Gardeners are crucial to his approach to this challenge; in both their choice of plants to grow and in understanding how ornamental plants can escape gardens and potentially become invasive.

Before starting his PhD, Tomos worked at Treborth Botanic garden in N. Wales. Tomos also completed a British Council internship at Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden in Yunnan, China, where he focused on in situ orchid conservation. These are only two of many fantastic gardens he has visited around the world giving him an appreciation of the long history of global horticultural trade, and the risk ornamental plants can pose to native biodiversity.

What We Discuss:

What is a native plant and what is a non-native?

How many new species of plant do we introduce to the UK each year and of those, how many ‘jump the garden fence’ and become established in the wild? Of those, how many cause an identifiable problem and become invasive?

The definition of an invasive plant

Do non-native plants cause problems by occupying a niche that could otherwise be taken up by a native plant?

Non-native plants appear to perform OK in terms of providing nectar and pollen sources, but how do they compare to native plants as host plants?

Should there be tighter controls on the importation of plants into the UK?

Ornamental plants which might naturalise in the future and why

Ornamental plants that have invasive potential, now and under future climate scenarios

Can gardeners be effective in identifying invasive potential early in the invasion process?

Will the way we garden will change in the future as a result of threats to our ecosystems, eg less plants imported, a smaller range available, the banning of certain species, etc?

Links:

Tomos Jones’s Blog

Episode kindly suggested by Jake Rayson of Forest Garden Wales

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