The DISCOVERY of a highly invasive plant from New Zealand near an Aberdeenshire national nature reserve has alarmed officials.
The piri piri burr, which grows in coastal dunes, was found close to a path a short distance from the site at Forvie.
Like many non-native plants, it was first grown in gardens from which it escaped, either by seed spread or by people dumping garden waste in the countryside.
Scottish Natural Heritage operations officer, Mike Smedley, said: “We don’t know of any large areas of piri piri burr in the North-east, but the island of Lindisfarne off the coast of Northumberland shows how bad the effects can be of unchecked spread.
“The plant grows over the ground, creating a dense carpet which can eliminate other less robust species.”
Annabel Drysdale, SNH’s reserve manager at Forvie, added: “Invasive, non-native species are a worry on any nature reserve.
“Because of the risk, we agreed with our neighbour that prompt action was necessary, so we are pulling up the plants before they seed and using herbicide on larger patches.
“It’s very timely that the Scottish Government has just published its code of practice for invasive non-native species, which explains the part we can all play in avoiding harm to our environment.”
The control of non-native species – such as Japanese Knotweed and Signal Crayfish – is estimated to cost Scotland £244 million a year. Scotland is the first UK country to aim to protect its native species through the publication of the code of practice.