The European Commission is calling a temporary halt to its plans to ban the sale of Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) plant.

The popular pond plant was one of three aquatic plants being considered for inclusion on the EU’s list of banned invasive species, along with Giant Salvinia (Salvinia molesta) and Senegal tea plant (Gymnocoronis spilanthoides).

Following representations from OATA and a meeting between government officials and UK aquatic plant growers, Defra made objections about the three aquatic plants during the EU listing process which led to the temporary reprieve for Pistia stratiotes.

Chief Executive Dominic Whitmee said: “We are always supportive of stopping the sale of problematic invasive plants and have done so in the past. But where there is little evidence to support a ban in the UK then we will fight to make that case.

“We are pleased the EU has called a timeout on the listing of Water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) following our lobbying of Defra which then made objections to the EU. We were able to air many of our arguments at a special meeting we organised between UK aquatic plant growers and Defra officials and we also provided valuable data to the EU to demonstrate the value of this plant to the trade.”

In submissions to the European Commission, OATA showed that sales of water lettuce had gone up by almost 500% across Europe as the UK trade had responded to recommendations by Defra to sell the plant as an alternative to Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) when this was banned from sale. OATA also submitted a proposal for a regional listing for water lettuce to ensure the plant could still be sold in parts of the EU where it was not an invasive issue, along with suggestions on how this could achieved.

However, OATA believes it is likely the EU will return to this plant species in the future so will continue to press for the adoption of regional, rather than EU-wide, measures.

The other two pond plants Giant Salvinia (Salvinia molesta) and Senegal tea plant (Gymnocoronis spilanthoides) did not escape the ban on sales which will come into force in due course.