Gunnera kill begins on Achill
ARMED with hooks, saws and machetes and a couple of gallons of ‘round-up’, volunteers from all over Europe and Ireland have travelled to Achill Island to try to eradicate the Gunnera plant which grown wild over large tracts of land.
A project to control the Gunnera or ‘wild rhubarb’ as it is known on the island began yesterday (Monday) with volunteers working with the local community in an effort to get rid of the alien invasive plant. The project which will last for two weeks follows on from the success of a pilot initiative by Mayo County Council and the National Botanic Gardens to control Gunnera on Clare Island.
The volunteers are being led by Andy Booth of Conservation Services which provides volunteers for environmental services projects throughout Ireland. Speaking to The Mayo News he admitted that trying to eradicate the Gunnera from Achill is a daunting task.
“I had a drive around the island and have seen acres of fields full of Gunnera and it is a daunting task but we are motivated. It is a problem and we will do what we can in two weeks. Now is the best time to kill the plant because in the winter time it shrivels up but at this time of the year it can grow to seven feet. The project was very successful on Clare Island last year and we hope to have the same success this year,” he said.
Gunnera is a native of South America but the climate along the west of Ireland makes it an ideal breeding ground and in the last number of years it has become a major problem on the island. The Gunnera has over 250,000 seeds and the movement and the spreading of the plant is largely blamed on the seed being spread by human activity. The plant can grow to seven feet tall and shades out native vegetation, blocks drains and waterways and renders large tracts of land unusable.
The volunteers who come from Spain, Germany, Austria and Ireland will tackle the plant by cutting off both the seed heads, before the seeds ripen, and leaves at the base and applying herbicide directly onto the cut stumps and injecting it into the rhizome. The method of killing the plant in an environmentally-friendly method was developed through research carried out over the last number of years by Mayo County Council, the Heritage Council and the Botany Department in UCD.
Andy explained that because of insurance difficulties they will only tackle the Gunnera along the public road and will not come onto private property, and hope to complete a half an acre a day.
John Sweeney of the Achill Gateway Committee who applied for the funding to carry out the project said he hoped the local community will get involved and learn how to kill the Gunnera. Cllr Michaeál McNamara said that Gunnera was a big problem and also called on local people to get involved and clear as much Gunnera as they can.
If you want to get involved in the project you can contact Andy at 087 7780233 for further details.