Act Against Invasives Expanding to Nurseries

July 18, 2007

The deliberate sale of invasive plants, through nurseries and similar venues, is one of the many routes through which they spread. Awareness of this problem is growing, and a handful of efforts have recently begun to address it.

Programs are piecemeal at best in most states, though there are sources you can check with to begin identifying problems and solutions for your audience. Sources with local information are essential, since an invasive plant typically is a serious problem in some settings but not others.

Gary Smith (512-585-6368), a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects, says extensive education about all facets of the issue is needed to spur success. For instance, he says education about one notorious invader, purple loosestrife, has helped remove it from most, if not all, North American nurseries. However, he says another major nemesis, Norway maple (particularly the cultivar 'Crimson King') remains widely available, and that education about its problems is essential to help stop it from eventually taking over large areas. General ASLA information. Local contacts.

At the state level, California has one of the most advanced efforts so far, corralling a broad spectrum of interested groups such as nurseries, contractors, designers, the public, and government agencies. Even there, however, the established programs are just beginning to provide detailed, pragmatic information appropriate to each of the state's diverse settings. The full push to get the word out to the general public won't begin until early 2008.

A primary source is Sustainable Conservation: Terri Kempton, 415-977-0380 x312. One effort that the organization has a major role in is the California Invasive Plant Council: 510-843-3902, e-mail, "Alternatives to invasive garden plants," and other states' organizations. Another isPlant Right.

In Florida, several organizations have been trying to make similar strides, though efforts are more disjointed than in California. Sources include the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association; the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council; and the Tampa Bay Wholesale Growers(invasives information at bottom).

In New England, there has been a range of efforts - some without initial industry involvement, causing serious backlash in that camp - in many of the states. Starting points include:

In Delaware, the Plants for a Livable Delaware program has made inroads.

In the Midwest, The Nature Conservancy and a major retailer, Meijer, have teamed up to aggressively promote selected plants as alternatives to some invasive species. The number of recommended plants will likely expand next year, after additional review of the available science, and coordination on the supply chain and public education, says TNC's Melissa Soule, 517-316-0300.

TNC is also working elsewhere in the US and has developed a list of a handful of invasive culprits in each region to avoid.

In Washington, several groups conducted a pilot study with five nurseries to evaluate appropriate processes and plants, and produced a booklet. Washington Invasive Species Coalition: Sarah Reichard, 206-616-5020 (Reichard is on sabbatical, so e-mail may be best). Another source is the Washington State Nursery & Landscape Association.

Common to many of these efforts is a voluntary code of conduct thrashed out by many players in the ornamental plant business in a December 2001 meeting hosted by the Missouri Botanical Garden: proceedings and codes of conduct. However, implementing the code - included in the St. Louis Declaration that came out of the meeting - remains a challenge, especially for smaller nurseries that don't have the money or expertise to take the needed steps. The Missouri Botanical Garden's Valerie Vartanian, 314-577-9473 x6201, is working with individual nurseries in several states and regions around the country (such as the Midwest, DE, FL, CA, OR, and HI) to help them tackle the issue. Another resource is George Yatskievych, 314-577-9522.

Other national organizations that have local sources include:

In addition to all these resources, some cities, counties, and homeowner associations likely will be glad to talk about their actions to ban invasive plants.

For related information, see TipSheets of Jan. 7, 2004, and Oct. 13, 2004.