Banned Invasive Weeds for Sale
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has labeled cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica), a native plant of Southeast Asia, as one of the world’s worst invasive weeds. It’s banned as an invasive species by the Federal Noxious Weed Act of 1974, but a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment by the University of Massachusetts Amherst discovered that this and about 1,300 other invasive plants are sold at garden centers, nurseries and other retailers.
Lead author Evelyn M. Beaury, a graduate student in organismic and evolutionary biology at University of Massachusetts, says that she and her fellows found cogongrass was being sold by 33 outlets in 17 states. She notes, “This is a tricky case, because plant breeders are marketing a sterile cultivar, but research shows these plants are not completely sterile and can still become invasive.” According to the USDA, there are no known effective biological control methods. Beaury states, “While patchy state regulations definitely contribute to the widespread availability of invasive plants in the U.S., it’s clear we as a public also lack awareness about which plants are invasive and how they spread to new areas. If we want to continue to protect native ecosystems, regulators and managers need more resources to do so.”