FAQs in relation to updated research relating to Gunnera manicata & Gunnera x cryptica

Recent scientific evidence has given DAERA/NIEA reason to believe that plants in trade considered to be Gunnera manicata are a hybrid of the invasive alien species Gunnera tinctoria. This hybrid has been named ‘Gunnera x cryptica’. To ensure that you are not trading in an illegal species, DAERA/NIEA recommends that you seek to confirm the species identity of any Gunnera you may have in stock, through genetic testing. See the below FAQ for more details.

1. What are the concerns over “Gunnera manicata” in trade?

Defra informed DAERA/NIEA of recent studies (see Q.10) that, taken together, provide reason to believe that plants in trade currently labelled as ‘Gunnera manicata’ are in fact a banned hybrid of Gunnera manicata and the banned species Gunnera tinctoria. This hybrid has been named Gunnera x cryptica.

NIEA Gunnera spp. ID Guide


2. Why is this a concern?

G. tinctoria is an invasive alien species listed in the Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order (Northern Ireland) 2019. This legislation also provides that an invasive alien species includes ‘any hybrid, variety or breed of a species that might survive and subsequently reproduce’. This means that legal restrictions apply to both G. tinctoria and its hybrid, G. x cryptica.

Invasive alien species are invasive non-native species that have been demonstrated to have the potential to negatively affect biodiversity, human health, or the economy. It is a criminal offence to (among other things) intentionally keep, breed, grow, cultivate, permit to reproduce, transport, sell, or release into the environment an invasive alien species. It is also an offence to plant or otherwise cause a listed species, such as G. tinctoria, to grow in the wild.


3. Is my Gunnera manicata stock likely to be Gunnera x cryptica?

Yes, the current scientific evidence available provides DAERA/NIEA with good reason to believe that G. manicata is no longer present in trade and has instead been replaced by the hybrid, G. x cryptica.
Gunnera × cryptica is a hybrid between Gunnera manicata and Gunnera tinctoria. Both morphological and molecular analyses have shown that plants widely cultivated in Britain and Ireland under the name Gunnera manicata were all the hybrid, and that the true species G. manicata is no longer found here. The hybrid is more resistant to frost and adverse conditions than G. manicata, which is likely to be why it has replaced it in cultivation


4. Is this a new ban on Gunnera x cryptica?

No, this is not a new ban. Hybrids of G. tinctoria have been banned since 2017. DAERA/NIEA has not brought in a new ban.


5. What do I need to do if I have stocks labelled ‘Gunnera manicata’?

There is reason to believe that all plants sold as G. manicata are likely to be G. x cryptica. It is important that those looking to sell or buy G. manicata are not trading in an illegal species or hybrid.

DAERA/NIEA recommend that producers and traders with stocks of presumed G. manicata take steps to determine the identity of their stock to ensure that they are not trading in an illegal invasive alien species.

DAERA/NIEA recommend that the identity of samples is determined via genetic testing. It may also be possible to use the published literature to distinguish G. manicata from G. x cryptica based on morphology. However, the analysis would need to be carried out by a suitably qualified, independent botanist, and take account of the distinguishing physical features of G. manicata, G. x cryptica, and G. tinctoria (see report (ii) under point 10 below).


6. Can you recommend an approved provider of genetic testing services?

DAERA/NIEA is not currently able to recommend any particular provider. However, there are private companies that provide genetic testing services.


7. If I continue trading my stock without confirming its identity, could I be at risk of committing an offence?

Yes, if you have been made aware that G. x cryptica is a hybrid of a Species of Union Concern and also a designated Widely Spread Species in Northern Ireland. The G. x cryptica plant may also be liable to seizure. This is set out in the Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order (Northern Ireland) 2019, which provides that it is an offence to intentionally place listed invasive species on the market. A producer or trader who is aware of the recent research and continues to market their stock without having successfully confirmed its identity in an appropriate way may be considered to have intentionally placed an invasive alien species on the market. 

Given the above offences, we advise that sufficient evidence is held in records to demonstrate the species identification of your plant stock. This evidence may be requested by enforcement officials, such as the NIEA Invasive Non – Native Species Team. or DAERA portal inspectors checking horticulture consignments arriving from G.B.

Any producer or trader who continues to trade in what they presume to be G. manicata without having recourse to such evidence would put themselves at risk of committing an offence under the legislation and may have their product seized by the Invasive Non-Native Species Team. DAERA/NIEA recommend that those holding stocks of plants presumed to be G. manicata confirm the identity of those plants and accordingly also ask for proof of species to be provided by their suppliers.


8. Can I still sell true Gunnera manicata?

Yes. True G. manicata is not a banned invasive species and its trade remains legal. Hybrids of G. manicata that have not been made with G. tinctoria may also be legally traded.


9. Does this issue only impact NI?

No, the research demonstrates that this issue is widespread and likely also concerns GB and European stocks of plants currently labelled as ‘G. manicata’.

Defra recommends that those looking to import G. manicata ask their supplier to demonstrate that their stocks are not of the illegal hybrid.


10. What evidence supports these concerns about Gunnera manicata?

  1. Edwards et al. 2022 https://journals.rbge.org.uk/rbgesib/article/view/1998/1917
  2. Shaw et. al 2022 https://britishandirishbotany.org/index.php/bib/article/view/129/164
  3. van Valkenburg, Osborne & Westenberg 2023 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0284665

11. What legislation should I be aware of?

  1. The EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation 2014
  2. The Invasive Alien Species (Enforcement and Permitting) Order (Northern Ireland) 2019
Invasive Species Northern Ireland

Invasive Species Northern Ireland