Millions of plants could enter the UK in the personal baggage of holiday making Britons this year, leading to fears that new pests and diseases - including the ‘game changing’ bacterium Xylella fastidiosa - could find their way into our gardens.
Stop bringing plants home from abroad
We conducted a survey to coincide with RHS Chatsworth Flower Show, which revealed that of more than half (57%) of respondents planning to travel abroad in the next 12 months, nearly one in 10 (9%) would consider bringing a plant back with them, equivalent to 2.5 million people.
While importing plants in personal baggage is already subject to some restrictions, that vary depending on country of travel and plant variety, along with Defra, we are calling on holidaymakers not to bring plants back from abroad and instead purchase them in the UK in light of the growing plant health threat.
Established pests already bought back by gardeners
Fuchsia gall mite, which causes plant disfigurement and is now rife in the South East, has been attributed to a keen gardener bringing fuchsia into the country in their personal baggage allowance.
There are currently more than 1,000 new pests and diseases on the risk register while Xylella – a bacterium which is known to affect more than 350 species of plant, including garden favourites such as lavender, hebe and rosemary - has been found in Italy, France and Spain. Nearly a third (31%) of survey respondents are planning to visit one of these three countries in the next 12 months.
When it comes to the existing restrictions in place at borders, respondents said UK customs (68%) should be responsible for making people in the UK travelling abroad aware of these restrictions, followed by the UK government and governmental departments (59%), travel gateways such as airports, ports, coach and train terminals (51%) and travel operators, such as airlines, ferry and train companies etc (50%).
Along with BBC Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time we highlighted the importance of plant health at Chatsworth Flower Show 2018 with an interactive feature to equip the UK’s gardeners with the knowledge and expertise needed to plan and maintain a healthy garden.
Sue Biggs, RHS Director General, said: “For many people, wandering the olive groves of Italy and lavender fields of France are as much a part of the holiday experience as the cities and beaches. But we’re asking people to leave these beautiful plants where they are for future visitors to enjoy and not to bring them back home with them. This is vital if we are going to win the fight to protect our gardens against the growing threat of pests and diseases.”
More information about pests and diseases and strengthening the UK’s biosecurity