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PotWatch

PotWatch, is a campaign to highlight the role the importation of pot plants plays in establishing invasive species in the UK.  In the first stage of this campaign we are asking you to record countries of origin of plants you purchase at your local garden centre. 

We’d also like you to keep a look out for flatworms in the plants you purchase. To help you we’ve created a basic guide to flatworms downloadable from this page. When you’re re-potting your plants keep an eye out for flatworms and their eggs and send in photos of any you find.

Obama worm (c) Richard Lewington

In November 2016 an invasive flatworm from Brazil, already a threat to agriculture across France, the Obama flatworm (Obama nungara), was found in a pot plant at a garden centre in Oxfordshire.

The Obama flatworm, which grows up to 7cm long, is a predator of earthworms and land snails, thereby endangering soil fertility and wildlife.  A 4.5 cm worm was spotted in a potted Heuchera, imported from the Netherlands.

In some areas invasive flatworms have reduced earthworm populations by 20%. Damage from invasive species such as flatworms is calculated to cost the UK £1.8 billion per annum.

Over £1 billion pounds of live plants are imported into the UK every year, for the vast majority there are no biosecurity measures to exclude or check for eggs or hibernating animals in the soil. Indeed the UK has a £1 billion trade deficit for pot plants.

Consumers should buy British to avoid aiding and abetting biosecurity breaches.  Peat use and neonicotinoid contamination are other environmental issues associated with the pot plant industry. As this campaign develops we will be looking more closely into these other aspects.

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