A group of us in Kintyre are in the process of setting up a social enterprise offering skills to create sustainable livelihoods in remote rural settings like the western seaboard of Scotland.
Our first training is on the removal of rhododendron using non-chemical methods. Rhododendron are THE number one threat to our remaining Celtic rainforest, Ferry Wood being no exception. There are plenty to get your teeth into: a great workout for body and soul!
Plus we will be making biochar using rhododendron brash. Come along!
Sounds cool! I’d love to get some practical experience in such a setting, as I hope to plant a 0.5 ha woodland and hedge on our coastal land (stabilised sand dunes) in the North of Scotland.
How are rhododendrons a threat? I never understand why people claim they need to remove some species, as if it is harming other species based on that it has been introduced by people (which is presumably the case here – Victorian gardening examples from Asia?) – Scotland is missing most of its trees for example, the hills are bare, and they clearly used to be covered in loads of trees and other species….what I am saying is – there are tonnes of places barren that ought to have more flora and fauna on them, it has been artificially removed, and of course a large amount of urban / industrial sites that can be replanted etc. It’d be better to view brought-in species from the point of view that the Earth knows what it is doing, and will just incorporate them into the ecosystem, rather than causing more destruction and death – a plant is a living conscious being, so when you kill them, you are creating really bad energy. The plant has been displaced from its origins, but then established itself anyway – then it gets the brunt of human activity again, as if it is the plants fault that there is a loss of other native species.
Do you in actual reality observe non-native species causing problems, or is it that ‘standard’ modern scientific ecology claims this is the case? Example, though not about plants, grey squirrels get blamed for the reduction of red squirrels. But this is nonsense – the red squirrels need pine and oak forests to live in, and there just are not enough of those left. It’s nothing much to do with grey squirrels at all, they don’t have the habitat they are meant to have is the actual main problem.
I agree with you that rhododendrons should not be regarded as “bad” just because they have been introduced. However, in the case of Rhododendron ponticum it is a species which was deliberately planted by Victorian lairds in most of their estate woodlands (an example being Ferry Wood, located on the Ardpatrick Estate). The plant took off because it was able to occupy the understorey/ shrub layer of the woodland; the reason being that this layer had disappeared due to excessive browsing by deer, sheep and goats. So the rhododendron is – as you say – occupying a vacant niche in the system. The problem is that – if allowed to spread unchecked – it results in a drastic loss of species diversity (down to possibly two species – rhododendron and oak, with the oak not being able to regenerate in the long term). So this would mean the effective loss of Scotland’s remnant bits of Celtic rainforest, which host hundreds of species of lichen, bryophyte, fern and fungi, some of which are found nowhere else on earth.