Over £1 billion of live plants are imported into the UK every year, for the vast majority, there are no biosecurity measures to check the soil for eggs or hibernating animals. Non-native land flatworms have been accidentally introduced to the UK in imported pot plants and newly arrived species continue to be discovered.
Local horticulturalists are capable of growing plants for domestic markets, so almost all international trade in live plants is unnecessary. Eradicating invasive species after they have become established can be expensive or impossible, and so preventing the spread of invasive non-native species is key to limiting harm. Improved biosecurity practices are essential. Until there is a proven way to sterilise both pot plants and the potting medium, and this is implemented, cross-border trade in pot plants should be prohibited.
There are no recorded natural enemies and no biological or pesticide control methods for non-native flatworms, the key control measure is to prevent their introduction to new areas.
Consumers should buy locally grown potted plants 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.