Forestry Commission Scotland tackles alien invaders

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Forestry Commission Scotland’s team in the north east have recently been out tackling an invasive non-native species!

It’s not an invasion of little green men – but a plant called Piri Piri, which spreads by means of burrs - little hooked seeds that catch on to clothing or animal fur and are transported to a new site. 

A highly invasive plant, originally from New Zealand, it creates a dense mat of ground cover which prevents other species from thriving and so has a negative impact on habitat and biodiversity.

Philippa Murphy, the Commission’s Environment Manager in the north east, said:

“We decided to get out and do it because as far as these plants are concerned, leaving them alone would mean that they’d very quickly spread throughout Blackhall forest. Catching them early, as soon as they’ve been discovered is really important.

“The burrs normally hook onto things like socks, trousers or even dogs legs to move about but being next to a forest road they are quite easily blown along in the draft caused by timber lorries.

“This is another way for them to travel and because Piri-piri favours the thin soils and low plant competition found at the edge of the forest roads, they could spread quite a distance in a very short space of time.

“The last 3 wet and cold summers seem to have favoured them too – there’s been a noticeable and fast spread along the forest road system.”

The Commission’s team tackled the verges along approximately 3km of forest road in Blackhall forest where these plants were growing. The team filled 7 bags with Piri Piri Burr before letting them dry out for a bit – so they’d burn more easily!

The Birse Community Trust has also been tackling the plant on their ground at Slewdrum, adjacent to the FCS site at Blackhall.

Ewen Cameron, Tayside & Grampian operations manager for Scottish Natural Heritage, said:

"We very much welcome the decisive action taken by the Commission, and other landowners like the Birse Community Trust, to control this invasive species.

“If everyone working in or enjoying Scotland's outdoors is aware of non-native species like piri piri burr, land owners can act quickly while control is still possible. As the name suggests, the plant forms burrs, covered with hooks, which readily attach to socks or the fur of animals. People may not always see the plant itself, but may see the burrs when they get home.

“If they do see piri piri or its burrs, they should remove any burrs from their clothing or the fur of their dogs and put them in the rubbish bin to make sure they don't spread the plant by accident. They should also let the landowner know that the plant is there."

Piri-piri burr features on the Scottish Government’s list of priority species with the aspiration for it to be contained where possible by local eradication.

Notes to Editors
1. Forestry Commission Scotland is part of the Scottish Government's Environment & Forestry Directorate

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3. Tha FCS ag obair mar bhuidheann-stiùiridh coilltearachd Riaghaltas na h-Alba agus a' riaghladh nan 660,000 heactairean ann an Oighreachd na Coille Nàiseanta, a' dìonadh, a' cumail smachd air agus a' leudachadh nan coilltean gus buannachdan a thoirt dha coimhearsnachdan, an eaconamaidh agus, ag obair an aghaidh atharrachadh gnàth-shìde.

4. Piri-piri burr is well established in parts of Lothian and the Borders, but it's a priority to stop it spreading to other parts of Scotland. The control of non-native species is estimated to cost Scotland £244 million per year. Advice on how to control invasive species can be found on both the Scottish Government and SNH websites at or