Cotoneaster – A Wildlife Goodie or Baddie?

We’ve spent several days this month down at Port Eynon Point where we have been managing the spread of cotoneaster. Cotoneaster is the genus of woody plants in the Rose family, Rosaceae. Cotoneaster is a non-native of the UK however it is a very popular garden shrub and many species have now escaped from cultivation and become invasive weeds.

Cotoneaster on Port Eynon by Rebecca Killa

Cotoneaster on Port Eynon by Rebecca Killa

At Port Eynon Point this has become a persistent problem as the Cotoneaster is spreading and tends to blanket and shade out all other species within its range. There are many important and rare mosses at this site that we are specifically concerned about along with the biodiversity of the rich flora you would associate with a limestone escarpment.

However cotoneaster does have wildlife value. Cotoneaster is used as larval food plant by several of the moth species including grey dagger, mottled umber, short-cloaked moth, winter moth and hawthorn moth (Scythropia crataegella).

Cotoneaster on Port Eynon by Rebecca Killa

Cotoneaster on Port Eynon by Rebecca Killa

It is a nectar plant for brimstome and red admiral butterflies. It is a valuable source of nectar when often the bees have little other forage in the June gap. The flowers are also good for many other insects and insect- feeding birds. And in the autumn when the plant is full of red berries they are a highly desirable food source for blackbirds, blackcaps, fieldfares, redwings and waxwings

It is a delicate balancing act for managers of wildlife reserves when writing up their management plans. Everything you do has an impact on the site and the species that use it.  The management plan for Port Eynon Point is for the removal of the cotoneaster as it threatens the site and if left unchecked could create a long lasting problem that has severely damaging ecological implications. In the right place cotoneaster’s wildlife benefits are obvious, but in the wrong place it causes conservationists headaches.