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.
The NPWS has been implementing a number of programmes at Killarney National Park to bring the plant under control, including a stem treatment method.
An internship programme has been running in the park, attracting students from a number of countries in the EU. Since 2012, Voluntary Service International has also been running two-week summer camps for students, who take part in the conservation work to help to control the plant in the 26,000-acre park.
The latest initiative by the Irish Men's Shed Association is sponsored by Haven Pharmacy and has the cooperative of the NPWS and Killarney businesses.
Pharmacist Finbarr Kennelly said the project will add to the work that's already been done by the voluntary group, Mountain Meitheal.
"It's beautiful to look at when it flowers but for the rest of the year, it's a nuisance. It's taking over paths and even blocking the view," Mr Kennelly said.
The method they'll use is approved by the NPWS where, working in pairs, one man makes a gash on the root with an axe, and the other sprays an approved herbicide into the gash.
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