Rhododendron (c) Rex Features

Sheep grazing Welsh mountain slopes are at risk from a highly toxic plant this spring.


With a shortage of vegetation on the ground, there is concern that the leaves of the rhododendron will tempt sheep.


These leaves are poisonous and there have been recent cases of sheep dying in Snowdonia after eating them.


The Snowdonia National Park Authority, which has spent around £2m on managing rhododendrons, has issued a warning to farmers to be on their guard.


Rhys Owen, the authority’s head of agriculture and conservation, said the plant was deceptive. “Although it looks great when it blooms, it is highly toxic to most animals, birds and insects. It spreads rapidly and other plants cannot live underneath it as it casts such a thick shadow.


“As spring is late this year, and the land has been bleak and gray, the rich green leaves of the rhododendron are appealing to sheep. However, its effect on the farmer is costly, so we’re appealing to the farmers in Snowdonia to be cautious of their sheep around this toxic plant.”
Rhys Owen, Snowdonia National Park Authority

“As spring is late this year, and the land has been bleak and gray, the rich green leaves of the rhododendron are appealing to sheep. However, its effect on the farmer is costly, so we’re appealing to the farmers in Snowdonia to be cautious of their sheep around this toxic plant.”


In 2008, the authority adopted a control strategy for the rhododendron in Snowdonia and has joined forces with Natural Resources Wales, The National Trust and Gwynedd Council to control the plant.


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