The task on Tuesday 28th January saw Sutton Nature Conservation Volunteers at both Anton Crescent Wetlands and Roudshaw Woods. The first half of the day was spent finishing off the hedgelaying work at Anton Crescent, and once that was complete, the volunteers were off to Roundshaw to remove some of the snowberry plants growing in the woodland.
Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) is a deciduous shrub that produces white berries in the autumn months and pink flowers in the summer. Despite their attractive appearance, they are actually an invasive species to the United Kingdom. The shrub originates from North America but was introduced into the UK in the 1800s by the Victorians, who typically planted snowberry in wooded areas to provide dense cover for game birds, such as grouse.
Other non-native invasive species such as Rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum), were also introduced by the Victorians into woodlands as an ornamental shrub and to provide cover for game. Both Rhododendron and snowberry are of particular concern to woodland conservation and management, because of their ability for prolific growth. In the right conditions, these shrubs spread through fast growing root systems and can out-compete native plants for light and space. They may eventually form a dense scrub thicket that suppresses the growth of surrounding plants.
As they cover such a large area in Roundshaw Woods, the best method of control is for volunteers to go out during the winter months and remove snowberry by cutting them back with loppers. Further management of snowberry can be carried out by spraying the plants to stop any persistent re-growth; however, this is done much less frequently (typically once a year). This combination of removal and spraying helps to stop snowberry dominating the woods and to maintain native plant diversity at Roundshaw Woodlands. The work that the volunteers carried out should mean that by the summer months we do not see woodland carpeted in snowberry, but a more varied habitat suitable for native plants such as (the very attractive!) bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) to persist.
SNCV Biodiversity Assistant