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Helena Robinson (July)

Walking along the river beside Beddgelert you may notice the land is densely populated by large bushes with thick waxy leaves and exotic pink flowers. Despite their attractive appearance these plants are part of a dangerous alien invasion which is sweeping over the countryside of North Wales. Native to southern Europe and Nepal, they were introduced to brighten up the gardens of Beddgelert in the 18th century. In their native lands local herbivores and diseases would have kept the plants in check but in here they have no natural nemesis so outcompete the native plants and spread rapidly, and provide no food or habitat for local animals. They leach poisonous compounds into the soil from their roots to kill everything within range.

Higher up the hillside a war is being waged to attempt to limit the impact of the aliens and you might find yourself walking through patches of skeletal Rhododendron causualties, which are the result of a new control method. Unfortunately Rhododendrons are indestructible super-villains of the plant world and usually require repeated cycles of cutting and herbiciding to destroy.

However, a new method of plant-lethal injection is proving effective. A hole is drilled deep into the stem and the herbicide injected into this so the poison is circulated around the plant and the dead skeleton is left undisturbed for a year to ensure it doesn't regrow.

Local anti-Rhododendron organisations predict it will take 5 million pounds and 25 years to rid the area of these unwelcome guests showing just how powerful a force these plants are proving to be.

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