Back in the 19th century, it became popular to plant this import, sometimes to provide ground cover for game. While some exotic species came from the Himalayas, the Ponticum species mainly found in the wood comes from the Iberian Peninsular. For a couple of weeks each year, the flowers can look attractive. But overall, Rhododendron is now considered a non-native invasive shrub that is detrimental to the bio-diversity of English woodland.

The website Forest Research says:

“Although it possesses attractive flowers R. ponticum has few attributes that offset the negative impact it can have on an invaded site. It has been shown to reduce the numbers of earthworms, birds and plants and regenerative capacity of a site, leading to a reduction in the biodiversity of the area. Physical access to a site can be reduced by the density and size of mature bushes, and management costs then rise as the bushes need to be treated prior to other activities being carried out. Established bushes then act as a seed source for further invasions in adjacent areas, eradicating ground cover plants and interfering with the process of natural regeneration of trees”.

For these reasons, Rhododendron has been the subject of significant removal and management since 2006. Just north of the car park, the clearance led to the significant re-emergence of heather, which must have been dormant below ground for many decades.

Large bank of Rhododendron on the south side of the car park.

In the car park there is also one example of a different kind of Rhododendron with white flowers, which doesn’t seem to spread:

Where management/removal has taken place, there is often an ongoing task to control regeneration. Wherever possible, the shrub is completely removed by digging or winching out the roots.

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