Half a million euro is to be spent on clearing rhododendron from Connemara National Park.

The invasive species spreads rapidly and is described as one of the biggest threats to peatlands in the west.

Funding has been allocated by the Department of Housing to allow the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) embark on a two year plan to tackle the plant.

Because it regrows vigorously when cut, it will be necessary to kill or remove the plant stumps from the land.

Introduced to Ireland from Asia in the 18th century, rhododendron ponticum has dark green leaves and pinkish purple flowers.

As well as producing large quantities of viable seed, it can also propagate itself by suckering from roots and layering when its branches touch the ground.

Because its unpalatable to animals, it can also spread more easily than native species.

Heritage Minister Malcolm Noonan said the removal of the species in question would be labour intensive work, but that it was critically important for the health of the ecosystem.

It's hoped that a total of 300 hectares will be cleared in Connemara over the two year period.

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