Don’t bring back a souvenir plant disease

Don’t bring back a souvenir plant disease

An survey has found that millions of plants could be entering the UK in holidaymakers’ luggage, increasing the risk of pests and diseases

Of the 57% of respondents to the RHS survey who were planning to travel abroad in the next 12 months, nearly one in 10 said they might bring plants, seeds, bulbs, tubers or cuttings back with them.

It is perfectly legal to bring plant material back from EU countries, as long as it has been grown in an EU country, is free from pests and diseases, and is for your own use. However, the RHS and Defra are now asking holidaymakers not to bring any plants back from abroad in the light of growing disease threats, notably from the ‘game-changing’ bacterium Xylella fastidiosa. This is known to affect more than 350 plant species, including lavender, hebe and rosemary, and has been found in Italy, France and Spain.


Bringing back plants from outside the EU is subject to restrictions, but gardeners have been known to ignore these. Fuchsia gall mite, which causes plant disfigurement and is now rife in the south-east of England, has been attributed to a fuchsia enthusiast illegally importing cuttings from South America.

Defra has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the risks of importing plant material. A new biosecurity poster in airports warns travellers not to bring back plants, flowers, fruit or vegetables because ‘they can carry pests and diseases that would destroy UK plants and crops’. The poster features a lavender and an olive (both linked to Xylella), an Asian longhorn beetle and a potato.

Defra Chief Plant Health Officer Nicola Spence says, “We’ve invested more than £4.5m to strengthen our border biosecurity, recruiting new plant inspectors and enhancing training. Our inspectors now make more interceptions of harmful organisms than any other EU member state. But we can’t eliminate all risks and we all have a part to play in protecting our plants and trees. Through our ‘Don’t Risk It’ campaign we’ll be asking everyone to enjoy the exotic plants and flowers they see on their holidays – but only bring them back to the UK in their memories and pictures.”


Find out more at

Pic: Rosemary. Credit: Picture: Neil Hepworth/RHS


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Steve Ott

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