Duhallow may be a long way from Asia but that hasn't stopped the invasive plant species, the Japanese Knotweed from making its way into the region.
In addition, the Himalayan Balsam is another species which are spreading rampantly along roadsides and riverbanks of not just Duhallow, but equally so, Cork city and county.
In Newmarket, over 60 people took part in a practical workshop, which was jointly organised by the IRD Duhallow Life project and the Cork branch of the Irish Wildlife Trust. Kieran Murphy, project scientist with IRD Duhallow Life project told the gathering that the Himalayan Balsam has been removed from vast stretches of the Blackwater river and its tributaries without using chemicals.
Instead, quite a labour intensive exercise, which involved various people from a number of IRD Duhallow schemes rolling up their sleeves along with a number of volunteers. Many long hours were undertaken to survey river reaches, drains, fields and roadside verges to identify where the plants were and then manually rooted them up to prevent the regeneration of the seeds. Dr Isobel Abbott from the Cork branch of the Irish Wildlife Trust spoke about the notoriously invasive Japanese knotweed.
She said: "This stubborn invader is more difficult to remove than the Himalayan Balsam because of its extensive underground rootstocks." She pointed out that Japanese Knotweed should never be cut, mowed, flailed or strimmed as tiny fragments of stem rand root will propagate into new plants. The result of which can now be seem along many roadside verges, where small strands of Japanese knotweed plants have now been transformed into large hedges by sometimes well meaning trimming, but ultimately futile efforts to control the plants. Dr Fran Igoe of the Life project made reference to the Blackwater river. It was his view that everyone should work together to tackle the problem of the invasive Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsam. He showed where they had got into water courses.
"Once these plants enter our rivers and streams, then a whole new set of problems arise from it and it has an impact on fishing and wildlife to blocking rivers in floods. "Many of our rivers are designated as Natura 2000 sites by the EU and there is an obligation to protect them," said Dr Igoe.
He also said that 2,500 is the average number of seeds that a single Himalayan Balsam plant can product in one year. The group also visited a stand of Himalayan Balsam outside Banteer village and a demonstration was given on how to remove it. Under the Life project, about 30km of river bank, road ditch and drains have been done in the region. Dr Igoe also pointed out that the Duhallow Life project was also participating in the 'Get involved programme,' which aims to involve local communities to take part in activities in their own local region.