About € 2 million has been spent since 2016 to clean up rhododendron in Killarney National Park.
The ongoing battle to tackle the invasive alien plant was the subject of a dedicated conference organized by the South Kerry Development Partnership in collaboration with the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Kerry.
The conference heard a call for a national program to control rhododendron and supports and incentives for farmers and private landowners.
Rhododendron ponticum was introduced to Ireland in the early 19th century as an ornamental garden plant and as a game cover for hunting.
However, the evergreen shrub outperforms native plants in blocking light; the plant produces up to 7,000 seeds on each flower head, which allows it to propagate easily.
National Parks and Wildlife Service regional director Seamus Hassett told the conference at the Brehon Hotel that about a third of Killarney National Park’s 10,200 hectares are affected by rhododendron.
Between 2016 and 2020, 1.6 million euros were spent on eradicating the plant in the southwest, mainly in Killarney National Park, and an additional 530,000 euros were allocated this year.
Mr Hassett said a detailed management plan for the park will be completed over the next two years.
It will be divided into more than 70 zones, 53 of which are under the active management of the forest guards; detailed GPS mapping was also carried out to identify areas of concern.
Mr. Hassett paid tribute to the work of volunteers in the fight against rhododendron in Killarney National Park; he noted the loss of international volunteers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.