Not sure how to deal with Cotoneaster? We’re here to help with advice and provide a complete removal package
What is Cotoneaster?
Originally heralding from southwestern China, Cotoneaster is a shrub that is used to decorate borders and walls in many gardens around the UK. There are thought to be about 300 different varieties of the plant but the popularity of some has meant that they have now become invasive.
While the berries of Cotoneaster are toxic to humans and household pets, birds love them. One of the pathways in which Cotoneaster is often spread is through bird droppings. The birds eat the berries and drop the seeds in new environments, which allows new colonies to establish. Over the last 20 to 30 years, we have seen many areas overtaken by Cotoneaster, particularly limestone grasslands.
What does it look like?
There are variations between different types of Cotoneasters but, in general, they have dark, woody stems and branches, small green elliptical leaves and small clusters of pink or white flowers that turn into red berries over the summer months.
Estimates suggest that about 100 different species of Cotoneaster can be bought in the UK today but the 5 that are currently noted in the Wildlife and Countryside Act are:
- Wall Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis)
- Himalayan Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster integrifolius)
- Entire-leaved Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster simonsii)
- Hollyberry Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster bullatus)
- Small-leaved Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster microphyllus)
The popularity of these particular plants in British gardens has likely led to their ending up on the list. The Wall Cotoneaster, for example, is prevalent in limestone grasslands around North Wales and is causing a serious problem for some long-standing natural environments and disrupting their ecosystems.
The plants establish quickly and out-compete local plant life. That not only affects the local flora but can also impact small animals and invertebrates that find their normal food source disappearing. There is a knock-on effect for large swathes of the countryside if nothing is done to stop the Cotoneaster plants from getting more of a foothold.
While Cotoneaster can grow on fairly barren areas like limestone slopes in coastal regions, their roots can establish deep into the ground which can be difficult to remove without excavation. Conservationists around the UK are now trying to highlight the potential danger of not controlling Cotoneaster. Despite this, most of the plants above that are on the invasive list are still sold online and in garden centres around Britain.
Although the 5 Cotoneaster plants are listed as Schedule 9 species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is not illegal to have them in your garden. You cannot, however, plant the species on adjacent land (either intentionally or inadvertently) or cause it to be spread into the wild.
That means if you prune your Cotoneaster, then you need to make sure that you dispose of the cuttings responsibly. It’s worth contacting your local authority or a licenced garden waste removal service to check how you do this if you want to stay on the right side of the law.
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What does Cotoneaster look like?
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How to get rid of Cotoneaster?
Smaller plants can generally be killed off using chemical controls, but this doesn’t always get rid of the underlying root system and any berries that may have fallen. It’s an important step to dig up the soil and have this removed as well.
For larger Cotoneasters that have been established for a long time, this can be difficult because the root system may well be a lot deeper and more extensive. Varieties such as the Wall Cotoneaster are likely to have thick woody root systems more akin to a tree than a shrub. These are very difficult to remove with normal gardening equipment and mechanical excavation is normally the best solution.
Hiring a professional team to remove larger areas of established Cotoneaster, (particularly in the countryside or waste ground in towns and cities), makes sense because they have the tools and experience needed. They not only make sure that the above-ground plant is removed but also everything in the soil, including roots and seeds.
Physical removal is achieved by the mechanical excavation of surrounding soils of the Cotoneaster. It’s important to make sure all plant matter and seeds are removed completely. The plants and the soil are sent to a licensed landfill as controlled waste. At Environet, we always advise clients to put in place a monitoring programme. This is designed to ensure that no regrowth occurs – if it does and the young plant is identified, it can be easily removed without the need for significant further excavation.
Herbicide treatments can also be used if there is a time or location constraint for dealing with a Cotoneaster problem. This usually involves giving two treatments over the summer between June and August. In these circumstances, the herbicide is mixed with an adjuvant that helps create a strong response and is more effective in controlling the plant. The challenge with this approach is that it can take repeat treatments over several seasons before the plant is fully eradicated.
With 25 years’ experience in the industry, Environet is the UK’s leading invasive plant removal company. During this time, we’ve been dealing with some of the UK’s most common non-native invasive plants including Japanese knotweed, Bamboo, Giant hogweed and, of course, Cotoneaster.
Want to find out more? Contact Environet today.
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