Rhododendron: Beautiful but DEADLY

It may be beautiful but it is also DEADLY and we are asking everyone for their help, simply photograph and upload to the iNaturalist app – it only takes seconds. 

Rhododendron – it is not native and it continues its invasion of the Quantocks, outcompeting our native shrubs, colonising woodland floors and glades and squeezing out our native species.  There are areas where it has taken a hold and other areas where it is just starting to spread into, we need a better understanding of this.

How you can help

1. Download the iNaturalist app

2. Photograph any Rhododendron plants you see on the common and in the combes and upload to the app

3. The app will automatically geolocate it, recording exactly where and when it was recorded

This information will give us valuable information of where the Rhododendron is and where it is spreading which in turn can be used by the Quantock Commoners and AONB Service in the control of this invasive plant.  It may also give future opportunities for potential grants to help us tackle this problem.

We are delighted that we have >600 observations but we know the map is far from complete, the green pins are observations but will have been combined at this scale for illustration.  There are many areas we still need information for.

If you’re not familiar with the iNaturalist app (it also has many more uses; great for all wildlife identification and recording), information is available on our website together with guides on how to record and search observations too if there are certain species you may be interested in.

Any help you can give by photographing when you are out and about and uploading (which can be done later at home), we would be very grateful.  We really would like to see this problem properly addressed in the future, but the more information we have the better chance we will have of achieving this.

Frequently asked questions:

Does the app work without a phone signal?

Whilst you do need a phone signal or wifi to upload your photographs / observations, you can simply photograph whilst you are out and upload when you get home.  

How does my phone know the location or do I need to input this too?

Your phone camera automatically geolocates images you take using embedding this information within the metadata of the image.  The app simply accesses this when you upload the image and it can then accurately locate it on a map, you will only need to input the location if you have used a traditional camera or have adjusted your phone settings to turn the geolocation off.

How will you know the difference between a single plant and large areas of them?

Ideally we would ask that you make multiple observations as you move through the area when there is a lot of Rhododendron.  This will help us understand plant density within areas in the quickest possible ways.

Does it matter if someone else has already recorded the plant?

Not at all.  The more observations we have the better.  iNaturalist overlays data within the mapping so the pins for these observations would just be overlaid.  There may be small errors in the data we gather but it will give us far more insight than we currently have.

Is the project running for a set period of time?

The project is open ended and will continue to run.  The data collated becomes even more informative when this is looked at over time as we can determine changes in distribution etc.

Should I only record / observe Rhododendron?

No, not at all.  The app is an excellent tool for wildlife identification and recording more broadly and will provide lots of useful data for those who have a role in the management of the Quantocks as well as providing a feed into the Somerset Environmental Records.  We currently have over 1800 species recorded and the number is growing all the time.