Let’s tackle Britain’s invasive species – just leave the daffodils alone some say.
The volunteers are at it again – digging up the daffodils.
Sunrise, Golden Harvest, Cheerfulness, Magnificence, Soleil d’Or – the names of cultivated daffodil varieties are as evocative as the spring flowers themselves. But how do you feel about hefty suburban daffs in wild places?
Britain has a native daffodil which you can find down at Frithsden, so many nature lovers dislike the incursion of brash cultivated varieties into our countryside.
As far as the Trust are concerned at Ashridge they are a definite no-no, because they are not native and visitors admire them and want to plant more! Zealous gardeners who want to gentrify the countryside are not to be encouraged. Brash blooms are all very well in a garden, but are a plant in the wrong place at Ashridge – a weed!
Naturalist Mark Avery has written about his hatred of “feral” daffodils anywhere wilder than gardens or suburban verges. They’re like graffiti in the countryside, he says, triggering a debate about belonging and beauty. There are over seventy non-native invasive species in the U K and some of them have turned up at Ashridge – edible dormouse, small balsam, muntjac deer, spanish bluebells, grey squirrels. They all raise big ethical questions, and practical challenges for our ecosystems. Invasive species are one of the prime contributors to extinction, after habitat loss.
But the language is problematic. “Invasive” suggests the species is to blame, when it is usually moved by globetrotting humans, or zealous gardeners. Protecting “native species” sounds like nativism, or even racism, which is why many people instinctively side with animal rights campaigners against proposals to control non-native species.
We need another word for species moved by humans on to islands or continents where they cause harm, and “weed” won’t really do.
A pragmatist would scientifically measure the damage caused and act to stop extinctions. So splashes of domesticated daffodils beyond suburbia get a reprieve because they’re not decimating other species, but they are still a no-no at wild Ashridge.
Thanks to Patrick Barkham for his contribution.