Buglife, the invertebrate conservation organization, has launched a new survey during National Invasive Species Week looking at the origins and potential hazards of imported bedding plants - PotWatch.
In November 2016 an invasive flatworm from Brazil, already a threat to agriculture across France, the Obama flatworm (Obama nungara), was found in a pot plant at a garden centre in Oxfordshire when a 4.5 cm worm was spotted in a potted Heuchera, imported from the Netherlands. The Obama flatworm, which grows up to 7 cm long, is a predator of earthworms and land snails, thereby endangering soil fertility and wildlife. In some areas invasive flatworms have reduced earthworm populations by 20%. Damage from invasive species such as flatworms is calculated to cost the UK 1.8 billion per annum. Over 1 billion pounds of live plants are imported into the UK every year, for the vast majority there are no biosecurity measures to exclude or check for eggs or hibernating animals in the soil. So pleases keep an eye out for Obama, and if you spot one, let Buglife know and if it's in Leicestershire or Rutland, please send us a record too.