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Pensioner unwittingly grows cannabis plant from bird seeds

21 September 2014

A pensioner from Exmouth has unwittingly grown a 5ft (1.5m) tall cannabis plant from a pack of bird seeds.

Patricia Hewitson, from Exmouth, contacted BBC Radio Devon’s gardening programme asking for help identifying “a weed”.

After discovering it was an illegal cannabis plant the police were involved.

Officers said Mrs Hewitson was growing the plant illegally but in good faith.

Mrs Hewitson said: “I sent a picture in via email and I got a couple of interesting emails back, including one from the police.

“They said they wouldn’t prosecute me as I’d done it in good faith.”

BBC Radio Devon’s gardening expert, Sarah Chesters, said: “I think the seed of this came from the bird feeder which hangs just above their door.

“It’s quite common for bird seed to contain a huge variety of plant seed and cannabis has been known to come up from it.”

Cannabis is illegal to grow without a licence so Mrs Hewitson and her husband John were advised by Devon and Cornwall Police about what to do with the specimen.

“We’ve been told we have to cut it up and either compost it, take it to the police station or take it up to the local recycling centre,” Mrs Hewitson said.

Sgt Ryan Canning, from Devon and Cornwall Police, said: “If you come into possession of an illegal drug such as cannabis, you must either destroy it or take it to a police officer.

“The lady has committed an offence although there are mitigating circumstances so we would not look to take it further although we would take it away.”

A pensioner from Exmouth has unwittingly grown a 5ft (1.5m) tall cannabis plant from a pack of bird seeds.

Most bird feed contains troublesome weed seeds

Bird feed mixtures may be helping to spread troublesome weeds that threaten agricultural crops

Many millions of homeowners use feeders to attract birds. But a two-year study featured in the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management suggests there may be one unintended consequence to this popular hobby. Bird feed mixtures may be helping to spread troublesome weeds that threaten agricultural crops.

When researchers examined the contents of 98 commercially available bird feed mixes, they uncovered several significant findings:

  • The mixes contained seeds from 29 weed species.
  • 96 percent of the mixes contained seeds for pigweed species weeds, which can represent a significant threat to agriculture.
  • One in 10 contained Palmer amaranth or waterhemp seeds that demonstrated resistance to glyphosate in a greenhouse screening.
  • Seeds from kochia, common ragweed, foxtail species and wild buckwheat were also found in many of the mixes.

The researchers also explored which harvested bird feed ingredients contributed most to weed seed contamination. They found that proso millet grain was closely linked to the presence of pigweed species weeds, while safflower and sunflower contributed most to the presence of kochia and common ragweed, respectively.

“While it is difficult to estimate the precise role commercial bird feed plays, there is a distinct possibility it may be an overlooked pathway for spreading troublesome weed species into new regions,” says Eric Oseland of the University of Missouri.

To mitigate the risks, researchers recommend careful weed management in crop fields designated for bird feed, as well as the use of sieving during packaging to reduce weed seed contamination. They also point to the proven effectiveness of regulatory measures adopted in Europe to limit weed seed content in bird feed.

Many millions of homeowners use feeders to attract birds. But a two-year study suggests there may be one unintended consequence to this popular hobby. Bird feed mixtures may be helping to spread troublesome weeds that threaten agricultural crops.