Invite to volunteer day at The Ridings to tackle invasive plants that are ‘smothering’ Thanet flora

Alexander plants at The Ridings

The Friends of Botany Bay volunteer group is organising an event to remove ‘Alexander’ plants that are ‘taking over’ areas including The Ridings.

Alexanders (or alisander) is an edible flowering plant which grows on waste ground and in hedges around the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastal regions of Europe.

It was formerly widely grown as a pot herb, but is now appreciated mostly by foragers. It was imported into the British Isles by the Romans but is now so prolific that it is upsetting fragile eco systems and reducing bio diversity.

Barry Manners, who leads the group, said: “The Bumblebee Conservation Trust plan has already made great strides in creating the conditions for rare and diverse flora to establish on The Ridings.

“We cannot remove all the invasive plants , but we believe we can prevent and even reverse encroachment on this important natural space. We’ve experimented with the best way to remove the newly cut plants and litter pick sticks are remarkably efficient and suitable for all to use. We’re hosting a volunteer event on May 23 to make a start. We’ll be working a gentle pace and there will be wine and soft drinks for volunteers afterwards.

“If successful we hope to expand to include other areas, in particular Northdown Park.”

To take part in the clearance meet at 47 The Ridings, near Botany Bay, at  6pm on Tuesday 23 May to cut and collect into bags that TDC will take for composting.

All scythers welcome and also those able to collect, wearing gardening gloves.

Former Thanet council Tree Biodiversity Horticulture Officer and new Green Councillor Kevin Pressland says the plant is ‘swamping’ native plants.

He said: “Although it has been in the UK for a long time, like any introduced plant, they can become domineering and this is what’s happening throughout Thanet both on roadside verges, parks like King George, and green corridors like The Ridings. There is no clear management plan in place to address this issue at present.

“On The Ridings the local CIC coordinated by Barry Manners rightly wishes to address the Alexander predation as it is swamping much of the native flora from developing. The public may be aware that TDC worked with the Bumble Bee Trust on The Ridings to create cutting regimes to increase the mosaic of flora there.

“This management is now not certain to continue. However, clearly the Alexander is marching on. The management approach should be cutting before seeding in the spring and collect and remove material and then cutting and collecting at least twice more through the growing season.

“Done over at least two years this should exhaust the plant and allow native flora to develop. I have had confirmation of this approach as best practice from the Kent Wildlife Trust. They also said chemical approaches are not good practice and will impact other flora and have other negative implications.”

Sunken Garden Society founder and Westgate tree warden Peter Hasted says a rigorous plan for control is needed.

He said: “Smyrnium olusatrum, also known as Alexanders, is a highly successful plant species that has a reputation for becoming invasive if not properly controlled.

“As a biennial species, wild celery usually flowers in its second year being a monocarpic plant, it will die after flowering. It is also a hermaphrodite flower, meaning it is able to self-pollenate. Once pollenated the seeds can take 4 to 8 weeks to fully develop, making now till mid-June the optimum time to remove the swelling umbel seed heads, before the big black seeds ripen and disperse.

“The seeds are known to stay viable in the soil of over 10 years, and as the saying goes, one year to seed, gives 7 years to weed.

“Anyone who is keen enough to reduce the vigour of this highly adaptive plant should develop a rigorous schedule of removing ripening seed heads over a five to ten years, so dedicated commitment needs to be considered if they are to be controlled.”

The Friends of Botany Bay are also holding a gala fundraising dinner on Saturday (May 20) at St Phillip’s Church in Summerfield Road Cliftonville.

Tickets are £30 from Barry Manners on 07479 98 6688 or via Eventbrite.

The gala dinner is to celebrate the coronation whilst raising money to support the group’s beach cleaning and other environmentally focused work in the local community

Canapes and bar on arrival, followed by a three course dinner. Entertainment by the Greyhound Buskers.
There will also be a raffle.


  1. A positive move that SOMETHING is being done. It will be hard work as there are a lot of Alexander’s.

    • People should eat them. They’re quite tasty and extremely nutritious (and better than foodbanks).

  2. I hope they have taken legal advice-

    ‘Is picking wildflowers illegal UK?

    Under the 1981 Act It is unlawful to intentional pick, uproot or destroy the wild plant or any seed or spore attached to the wild plant. In any proceedings the plant will be deemed to be wild unless the contrary is shown.’

  3. Pick them and eat them. Fry in butter and garlic. And they’re traditionally good for aching joints! Some local restaurant should investigate!

  4. The Romans knew what they were doing. Agree with the above that they are an excellent edible plant with all sorts of benefits, and an uplifting colour for the landscape.

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