Plant Alert is a citizen science project for gardeners with the aim to identify potentially invasive alien plants before they become a problem in the wider environment. Invasive non-native plants are causing major problems for native biodiversity, ecosystems, infrastructure, the built environment and human health. The majority of invasive plants have been initially introduced as ornamental garden plants and then spread from gardens into the wider environment. To prevent more species becoming invasive, gardeners across Britain and Ireland are asked to report ornamental plants that are growing out of control in gardens using an online reporting tool. Results will be used in monitoring and risk assessments of potential future invasive plants.
The majority of our ornamental plants are non-native. They contribute greatly to our enjoyment of gardens and represent a long history of plant discovery and garden design. However, some have escaped the controlled environment of gardens, and a small minority of these are threatening native biodiversity or are causing severe problems for infrastructure, agriculture or forestry. Well known examples include Japanese Knotweed (Reynoutria japonica), Rhododendron ponticum and Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera). The period between introduction of a species and it first being noticed as a problem can be a long one, making future control problematic. In Britain on average, this time span has been more than one hundred years. Early detection of potentially problematic plants for further risk assessment could greatly improve our ability to prevent plant species becoming invasive. Plant Alert is based upon the assumption that it is gardeners who are most likely to notice first if a particular ornamental plant may have the potential to spread outside the garden. (Most gardeners will know which plants tend to overgrow others or tend to spread all over the garden.) This knowledge could be invaluable in identifying potential invaders, triggering timely risk assessment.
How to participate
This project can be done at home. Participants access an online reporting form on the project webpage which can also be filled in on a smartphone. Participants are encouraged to submit photographs to verify records. All results can be seen on the project webpage.