Sales of some non-native plants and animals including the floating pennywort and the water hyacinth could be banned to protect British wildlife.
The government says theses species – together with the American bullfrog and some types of crayfish – are strongly invasive and there is a real risk they could spread into the wild and damage the natural habitat.
A number of other species including the rosy–faced lovebird, grass carp, water fern and Virginia creeper could also be added to a list of those which can be released into the wild only under licence.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says that the spread of non-native invasive species is the second greatest threat to wildlife after habitat destruction.
Not only do these species damage native wildlife but they can also threaten agriculture, forestry, and fisheries.
For example, it’s cost more than £1.5 billion to eradicate Japanese knotweed, while attempts to eradicate rhododendron from Snowdonia National Park have cost £45 million.
Joan Ruddock, Minister for Climate Change and Biodiversity, said: ‘Invasive non-native species pose a very serious threat to our native plants, animals and the local environments they live in, costing the British economy around £2 billion per year.
‘The threat is greater than ever with climate change. It is vital that we do all we can to prevent these species from establishing in the wild.’
Gardening Which? Editor Ceri Thomas said: ‘It’s a serious issue that gardeners must be made aware of. The UK’s climate lets us enjoy growing a huge range of plants from different countries but we must be responsible with the plants that are now proving a danger to our native flora.’
The Defra and Welsh Assembly Government consultation will run until 31 January 2008.