Rhododendron ponticum is classified as an invasive non-native species as it destroys habitats and animals with its toxicity. The Woodland Trust call it A devil in disguise. ‘It may look pretty, but its effect on the landscape is significant’, say the Woodland Trust in their article about invasive species. They go on to say ‘It prevents native ground cover flora and shrubs from growing as well as preventing natural regeneration of native trees.’
The Rhododendrons in Childwall Woods were planted as ornate shrubbery by the owners of Childwall Hall many years ago and were kept trimmed and in order until the grand house became empty and was demolished. Then the Rhodies grew wild.
Although they mostly affect the northern side of the woods, where they were planted over a century ago, some have seeded and are beginning to take over large areas of the southern woods, choking out everything around them.
As part of the Habitat Improvement Project Friends of Childwall Woods and Fields volunteers met to get rid of as many plants as possible.
Twelve volunteers tackled the mounds of Rhododendron bushes along the path from the Woolton Road entrance.
Ever aware of the Covid-19 pandemic that we are still in the grip of, 2 groups of volunteers were formed, with all 6 volunteers maintaining a social distance.
Roots were removed if possible and the cut branches placed by the side of the path to allow natural rot of the wood.
While one group tackled the rhodies along the path the other group set about destroying the huge area of Rhodies by the Woolton Road entrance to the woods.
Cut branches left to offer shelter to small animals and eventually return nutrients to the soil.
After 2 hours the results can be seen. The woodland floor is in sunlight again.
Not the growing season yet but let’s see what native plants re-establish themselves in spring now that the Rhododendron bushes have been removed.
What can we expect to see in a year or two? Ferns, bluebells, wild garlic, wood anemones, foxgloves, primroses, etc etc etc.
Thanks to all the volunteers who turned up on a cold winters day and got stuck in.
John McCombs Chair
Andrew Weighill Secretary
David Howatson Treasurer
Brenda Cameron Secretary and Author