Rhododendron Ponticum was introduced into Britain by the Victorians for its ornamental value.
Unfortunately they didn’t realise that it would ‘escape’ from our gardens and start to colonise our woodlands.
The dense leaves of Rhododendron Ponticum eliminate more or less all light from the ground below, and nothing can grow there. As it spreads across the woodland, more and more of the woodland flowers and animals are pushed out.
Trees in a woodland support many different species. Oaks, for example, are reckoned to host as many as 280 different insects and over 300 species of lichen. Rhododendrons, on the other hand, support virtually no insects or lichen, and consequently, if allowed to spread, will significantly reduce biodiversity.
Trees can survive above the rhododendrons, but when they reach the end of their natural life, the new saplings cannot thrive and grow on the woodland floor because of the lack of light. In time, the woods will disappear altogether.
For these reasons it is necessary to remove Rhododendron Ponticum from the woods, and this is done by cutting it down, burning the cuttings, and killing off the stump.
Ashplats Conservation Group has been carrying out this process every year since 1997. We may finish it off after 17 years or so around 2014. The work is done in the winter to avoid disturbing any nesting birds.
Laurels have the same effect in woodland as Rhododendrons and likewise are being removed.