Battling back against an invasive enemy

Man at work: Johnny McGuire is the volunteer co-ordinator

NEW foot soldiers are to be recruited to join the war against an invasive species.

Volunteers are being sought to join the ranks of the rhododendron eradication troops attempting to control the all-consuming woody plant that is threatening the 26,000-acre Killarney National Park.

Volunteers gather two morning a week to implement tried and trusted methods to safely control the plant and more people have been invited to join the group and help reclaim the people’s park.

Volunteer co-ordinator Johnny McGuire, who works closely with park ranger Peter O’Toole – an established authority on the issue – said the rhododendron eradication programme volunteers gather at the Dinis car park every Sunday at 9.00am and again every Tuesday at 9.30am.

Park Ranger Peter O’Toole who is providing expert advice and guidance to the volunteers

Those that wish to lend a hand are advised to wear appropriate footwear for work in forestry and weather-proof outdoor clothing. All equipment will be provided on site.

Large sections of Killarney National Park, particularly Torc mountain and Gleana Woods, are under real threat from invasive rhododendron with some areas completely infested.

The problem is causing real concern for one of the last remaining semi-natural oakwoods.

Invasive rhododendron, whose unconstrained growth is a danger to flora and fauna, threaten the park’s natural beauty and delicate ecosystems and it is harmful to wildlife, dangerous to people due to its unrestricted growth and it starves other plants of sun and sustenance beneath its tall, dense thickets.

Dozens of volunteers from the Men’s Sheds Association arrived in Killarney last November to join in the fight against rhododendron and, over the years, numerous groups of students and international environmentalists have also lent their support to the carefully managed programme conducted under the auspices of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

A single rhododendron ponticum can produce a million dust-like seeds
The canopy of evergreen leaves on rhododendron eradicates all life beneath
The sturdy and stubborn plant can resist frost and it can even survive fire
Rhododendron is native to Portugal and Spain as well as the Black Sea region
The damp mossy conditions in Ireland really suits the rhododendron
It can wipe out layers of woodland floor and all associated animals and birdlife
It is estimated that 3,000 of Killarney National Park’s 10,000 hectares have a rhododendron problem
It takes decades to bring a rhododendron infested area under control

© We have changed the face of local news coverage
Advertise with Kerry’s premier news source: Over 300,000 views every month. Over 20,000 followers on Facebook. Call 087-2229761