Men V rhododendron: Volunteers to tackle plant invader
It is an invasive plant that threatens thousands of acres of farmland bordering the country's national parks but the battle against the rhododendron will be strengthened next week by an army of volunteers from the Men's Shed movement.
Around 60 volunteers from all over the country are arriving in Killarney, Co Kerry, on November 5 and will dedicate three days to tackling the highly invasive and destructive rhododendron in the Killarney National Park that was introduced to Ireland in the early 19th century.
Suckler and sheep farmer, George Kelly, from nearby Listry is the outgoing chairman of the Irish Men's Shed Association.
He said farmers needed to be more aware about invasive species and the impact they had from an environmental point of view.
"The rhododendron is effecting the pedigree cattle herds within the park but there is also a lot of agri-tourism surrounding the country's national parks that are dependent on them," he said.
The volunteers will be put up in some of the town's top hotels for the duration of their stay and bussed to the national park each morning to begin their work.
Local pharmacist, Finbarr Kennelly, came up with the idea and approached the Irish Men's Shed Association, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce for their support.
Hundreds of thousands of euro are spent each year in the battle to eradicate the plant, which is native to the Black Sea Region and the Iberian Peninsula, and was introduced to Ireland for ornamental purposes.