Using data gathered and analysed by the Defra Plant Health Risk and Horizon Scanning Team, the Grown in Britain report highlights 15 pests, which it says could potentially reach the UK on imported Christmas trees.

Each year, the UK imports around £3m-worth of cut Christmas trees from Europe and Scandinavia. Grown in Britain is urging consumers and retailers to buy Christmas trees labelled with its mark, which certifies they are UK grown, to reduce the risk of these pests making themselves at home in this country.

Six of the pests, including the pine processionary moth and Siberian fir woolly aphid, are currently absent from the UK and the majority of the others either have limited distribution here or their spread is unknown.

“Christmas trees provide ideal conditions for pests to hitch a ride, said Dougal Driver, Grown in Britain chief executive.

“The trees are usually netted, which means the branches don’t dry out, and pests can remain hidden in the tightly bound branches. With climate change, the risks are also rising, as pests which are native to warmer parts of southern Europe are increasingly likely to be able to survive in northern Europe and the UK.”

The threat is even greater from larger imported Christmas trees, which are often found on display in town centres or shopping malls. The Defra data identifies a further 12 pests which could enter on large cut Christmas trees, normally categorised as those more than 3m in height. This takes the total number of pests that could enter the UK on Christmas trees to 27, 14 of which are currently absent from this country.

Plant health regulations are becoming increasingly stringent to reduce the risk of disease and from December this year, it is possible that more Christmas trees will be required to have plant passports. However, there are currently no controls on the import of cut Christmas trees from the EU below 3m, the ones that are destined for homes across Britain.

The Grown in Britain report also identifies a different set of pests that could potentially be brought into the UK on imported potted Christmas trees. Pests that are present in the soil or inhabit tree roots, such as nematodes and nematode-spread plant viruses. The risk from these pests is not only to Christmas trees grown in this country, some have the potential to affect other trees and plants as well, if they come into contact while in a garden centre, farm or woodland environment.

“I welcome Grown in Britain’s initiative to encourage people to source their Christmas trees responsibly and practise strong biosecurity,” said Professor Nicola Spence, the UK’s chief plant health officer comments.

“Protecting our country from pests and diseases is vital to safeguard our environment, economy and health. Our international surveillance work helps us spot new risks and take action to stop any diseases before they arrive.”

Grown in Britain has a Christmas tree certification scheme, which currently covers around 100,000 trees. It provides an assurance that the trees are grown in this country, meet strict freshness standards and have been subject to regular biosecurity checks.

Grown in Britain and Defra’s Plant Health Risk and Horizon Scanning Team are holding a joint briefing event on Christmas trees and biosecurity in London on October 14. For details go to