Shrub called Cotoneaster commonly found in garden centres could land gardeners a £2,500 fine - here’s why
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Keen gardeners need to beware as a common shrub which can be found in your local garden centre could land you with a £2,500 fine. The shrub, known as Cotoneaster, is often found in gardens and bears red berries which are popular with birds.
However, it is against the law to allow the shrub to spread into the wild as part of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Cotoneaster can grow into a sprawling hedge and can also be used to cover fences and walls.
The plant also has pink or white flowers which can attract bees and can easily spread their seeds over a wide area. While it is not illegal to sell the plant, it is an offence to allow Cotoneaster, which is native to Asia, to spread into the wild.
The plant was introduced to the UK in 1824 and if it spreads into natural habitats, it can form dense thickets and outcompete native plants.
Which species of Cotoneaster are included in UK law?
There are five species of Cotoneaster which are listed in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. These include:
- Rockspray cotoneaster (cotoneaster horizontalis)
- Entire-leaved cotoneaster (cotoneaster integrifolius)
- Himalayan cotoneaster (cotoneaster simonsii)
- Hollyberry cotoneaster (cotoneaster bullatus)
- Small-leaved cotoneaster (cotoneaster microphyllus).
The species were added to the act in 2020 and according to the legislation, it is an offence to plant the shrub, or cause it to grow, in the wild.
Cotoneaster legal implications and fines
Gardeners do not need to notify authorities if they have the presence of Cotoneaster and it is not an offence to have the shrub on your land. However, there are legal implications if the shrub spreads from your garden into a wild habitat.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 states homeowners who do not comply with a council order urging them to control the shrub escaping from their land could be prosecuted.
There is an initial fixed penalty notice of £100 or prosecution if you fail to stop the spread. If convicted, a fine of £2,500 can be imposed.