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Harmful weeds and invasive, non-native plants

There are a number of plants that should be prevented from spreading.

You have a responsibility to:

• prevent invasive, non-native plants on your land spreading into the wild and causing a nuisance
• prevent harmful weeds on your land spreading onto a neighbour's property

It is important that you can identify them so you can control them in the most appropriate way.

Preventing the spread of invasive, non-native plants

There are a number of invasive, non-native plants that you must not plant or allow to grow in the wild. You should also not move contaminated soil or plant cuttings.

The most commonly found invasive, non-native plants include:

  • Japanese Knotweed
  • Giant Hogweed
  • Himalayan Balsam
  • Rhododendron Ponticum
  • New Zealand Pigmyweed (this is banned from sale)

You are not legally obliged to remove these plants or to control them. However, if you allow Japanese knotweed to grow onto other people's property you could be prosecuted for causing a private nuisance.

Disposing of invasive, non-native plants

Spraying with herbicide is an effective treatment to stop invasive plants from spreading. You will have to re-spray. It usually takes:

  • 3 years to treat Japanese knotweed until dormant
  • 15 years for giant hogweed seeds to stop germinating

Correct disposal of plant material is vital to avoid the risk of spreading the problem further. You will need to check with the Environment Agency for advice on disposal because there are regulations which cover the composting, burning and burial of plant materials on-site and the transfer and disposal of material including ash to licensed or permitted landfill sites. If you fail to ensure safe, legal disposal or obtain an appropriate licence or exemption if required, you could risk being prosecuted. 

You must not put Japanese knotweed in your rubbish bin, or any green waste recycling schemes of any description, or your home compost bin.

Preventing the spread of harmful weeds

A number of weeds pose a danger to animals, or can cause problems for agriculture if they are allowed to spread unchecked. The following weeds are controlled by law:

  • Common Ragwort
  • Spear Thistle
  • Creeping or Field Thistle
  • Broad-leaved Dock
  • Curled Dock

It's not an offence to have these weeds growing on your land, but you must:

  • Prevent them from spreading to agricultural land, particularly grazing areas or land used for forage, like silage and hay
  • Choose an appropriate method of controlling them
  • Not plant them in the wild

If you allow these weeds to spread onto someone else's property, Natural England could serve you with an enforcement notice. You can also be prosecuted if you allow animals to suffer by eating these weeds.

There is more information on stopping the spread of harmful weeds and what to do if you think they are spreading onto your land on the GOV.UK.


Natural England

PO Box 2423

Telephone: 0300 060 1112

Environment Agency

National Customer Contact Centre
PO Box 544
S60 1BY
Telephone: 0370 850 6506


Help with identifying invasive, non-native plants and harmful weeds

Identity invasive, non-native plants

Find out more about how to identify Japanese Knotweed

Find out more about how to identify Giant Hogweed

Find out more about how to identify Himalayan Balsam

Find out more about how to identify Rhododendron Ponticum

Identify harmful weeds

Find out more about how to identify and control Common Ragwort

Find out more about how to identify and control Spear Thistle

Find out more about how to identify and control Creeping or Field Thistle

Find out more about how to identify and control Broad-leaved Dock

Find out more about how to identify and control Curled Dock