Sell these aquatic plants in the UK and face going to jail

Ponds, plant cascades and planted tanks will never look the same again, now the Invasive Alien Species Order 2019 is in place. A ban on trading in some species has been in place since 2014, but the 2019 list has grown to include pond plant staple Lagarosiphon major and the popular aquarium plant Cabomba caroliniana.

Why? Because they are deemed a threat to native species and are listed under EU Alien Invasive Species Regulation. Skunk cabbage, Curly waterweed and Parrots feather can of course survive our winters and were popular pond plants because of it.

But Water hyacinth, a native to tropical South America, sure as hell can’t, and becomes wind burnt, rots and dies outside of anything but the hottest UK summer. And despite leaving the EU, us Brits seem to be going along with it, and the ban of Apple snails, another tropical South American, with no clear answer or action on why we are putting up with it after Brexit.

Invasive species are bad. Grey squirrels should actually be eradicated from the UK, along with Pheasants, Rabbits, Canada geese, Muntjac, Sika deer, Wels catfish and carp, as all of these breed quite happily in our climate, affecting the habitats and ecosystems of our endemics. But Water hyacinth and Apple snails never will, or at least not without us missing spring, autumn and winter seasons altogether and if that point ever comes, it won’t be snails and floating plants we’ll be worrying about.

Could they potentially live elsewhere in Europe? Yep, like Spain, Greece and Italy, hence the anxiety and the ban, but I guess its just this kind of blanket legislation which caused Brits to take to the ballet boxes and vote Leave.

So good luck telling the nine scientifically accepted Lagarosiphon species from the six scientifically accepted Elodea species, (Lagarosiphon crispa and Elodea densa are both synonyms.) And if you trade in it and then get banged-up for selling weed, your cell mates will be surprised and disappointed in equal measure that it was bunched oxygenating plant you were dealing in. And that the Skunk you had growing in your back garden wasn’t that sort of skunk.

Double standards

Did you know that Buddleja isn’t native? But grows everywhere in the uk and is hailed as a wonderful plant to attract our struggling native bee populations? Did you also know that Oil seed rape is native to Asia, to give just two examples of very invasive non-native plant species that aren’t banned. But you don’t see Alan Titchmarsh vilified as the Pablo Escobar of the garden world, John Craven the farming world, and sent to prison and made an example of.

Go figure…

Aquatic plants that can no longer be sold in the UK (from

  • Water Fern (Azolla filiculoides)
  • Parrot’s Feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum)
  • Floating Pennywort (Hydrocotyle ranunculoides)
  • Australian swamp stone crop (New Zealand Pygmyweed) (Crassula helmsii)
  • Water Primrose (Ludwigia grandiflora)
  • Floating primrose-willow (Ludwigia peploides)
  • Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)
  • Cabomba (Cabomba caroliniana)
  • Curly waterweed (Lagarosiphon major often inaccurately called Elodea crispa)
  • American skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus)
  • Nuttall’s waterweed (Elodea nuttallii)
  • Alligator weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides)
  • Chilean rhubarb (Gunnera tinctoria)
  • Broadleaf watermilfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum)
  • Giant Salvinia (Salvinia molesta)*
  • Senegal tea plant (Gymnocoronis spilanthoides)*

*Traders now have 12 months to clear stock on shelves or that they ordered before 14 August 2019 for next season. No plants can be sold after 14 August 2020.

More info at oata


Jeremy Gay

Author of three fishkeeping books and lifelong fishkeeper. Experience includes editor of Practical Fishkeeping magazine, editor of Pet Product Marketing magazine, multi award- winning livestock manager and aquatic store manager.