Royal Horticultural Society to ban OLIVE trees from their shows

Royal Horticultural Society to ban OLIVE trees from their shows because they could bring disease into the UK that is lethal to oaks, maples and other plants

  • Olive trees will be banned from RHS shows to stop them bringing a disease to UK
  • Bacterial disease Xylella fastidiosa ravaged groves in Italy, threatens oak, cherry
  • Bug, which can cause leaf scorch, wilt and dieback, has not been seen in the UK

They add a touch of the Mediterranean to our gardens. 

But potted olive trees will be banned from Royal Horticultural Society shows to stop them bringing a plant-killing disease into the UK.

The bacterial disease Xylella fastidiosa has ravaged olive groves in Italy and threatens trees including oak and cherry.

The bug, which can cause leaf scorch, wilt and dieback, has not been reported in the UK.

Its discovery would prompt strict measures to stop its spread. 

They add a touch of the Mediterranean to our gardens. But potted olive trees will be banned from Royal Horticultural Society shows to stop them bringing a plant-killing disease into the UK

Coffee, oleander, polygala and Spanish broom have also been banned from RHS events including the Chelsea Flower Show. The five typically imported plants can all harbour the bug.

Alistair Griffiths of the RHS said: ‘RHS shows are intended as a celebration of our gardens but we also have a responsibility to promote good stewardship of them through detecting, identifying and managing plant pest and diseases. 

‘When it comes to showcasing these five high risk Xylella host plants the risk far outweighs the benefits and we have taken the difficult decision to put a hold on their display until we are comfortable that the risks of them carrying the bacterium is low.’ 

The move by the RHS goes further than the government, which allows imports of olives and other plants that could harbour Xylella, but the RHS say that the rules are necessary to protect the areas where they hold their exhibitions from the disease spreading.

So the listed plants will not be exhibited at RHS shows next year, the best-known of which is the Chelsea Flower Show which returns to its traditional slot in May next year. This year it took place in autumn due to the pandemic.

The listed plants will not be exhibited at RHS shows next year, the best-known of which is the Chelsea Flower Show (pictured in September) which returns to its traditional slot in May next year

The RHS said it will exclude the plants until the risk to gardens is deemed low by RHS plant health experts, for example, as a result of new resistant varieties or an increase in UK produced stock.

Xylella outbreaks have been recorded in France, Spain, Portugal and Germany, as well as Italy. 

If a Xylella outbreak was found in the UK, all host plants within a 100 metre range would be destroyed and there would be a ban on the movement of plants within a 5km range, including private gardens. 

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