For Immediate Release - July 01, 2009

Department of Agricultural Resources Issues Advice on Keeping Invasive Plants out of Massachusetts Yards and Gardens

BOSTON - With the gardening season underway, the Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) is urging homeowners and gardeners to be aware of invasive plants that may be lurking in their own gardens or offered for sale at local garden centers.

"Invasive plants are a serious threat to the integrity of biodiversity in the Commonwealth," said DAR Commissioner Scott Soares. "Gardeners should be conscious of which species are now prohibited from being sold in Massachusetts, and avoid purchasing these plants."

Invasive plants - also referred to as exotic, non-native, alien, noxious, or non-indigenous species - impact native plant and animal communities, displacing native vegetation and disrupting habitats as they establish themselves and spread. Such plants are currently infiltrating gardens, fields, pastures, forests, wetlands and waterways, natural areas, and right-of-ways nationwide.

An invasive species that colonizes a new area may gain an ecological edge, since the insects, diseases, and foraging animals that naturally keep its growth in check in its native range are not present in the new habitat. Some invasive plants, such as Mile-a-Minute vine, Purple Loosestrife and Kudzu, cause serious ecological disturbances, displacing all other plants, and putting extreme pressure on native species that depend on that plant life to survive.

 

To control the spread of invasive species, Massachusetts developed a Prohibited Plant List, which bans the importation and sale of more than 140 plants identified as either noxious or invasive in the Commonwealth. The complete list can be found on the Department of Agricultural Resources web site at:

http://www.mass.gov/agr/farmproducts/prohibitedplantlist.htm 

Massachusetts Prohibited Plants List

The list of plants was developed in collaboration with the Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group (MIPAG). MIPAG members represent research institutions, non-profit organizations, green industry businesses and associations, and state and federal agencies. The list is a product of scientific analysis, and represents the scientific consensus of groups and individuals with a broad range of perspectives on the subject of invasive plants.

"The role of the nursery and landscape industry is now more important than ever, as we help guide consumers towards plants that do not negatively impact the environment," notes Rena Sumner, executive director of the Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA) and Chairperson of MIPAG.

Other state agencies are also involved in the effort to manage invasive plants. The Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, a division of the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Wildlife (MassWildlife), has produced "A Guide to Invasive Plants in Massachusetts." The book, which costs $5, includes photos and detailed descriptions for more than 60 invasive plants.

The Wetlands Restoration Program (WRP), in the Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM), initiated the Purple Loosestrife Biocontrol Project in 2000 to enhance the health, condition, and diversity of habitats and native species in wetlands that have been degraded by purple loosestrife infestations. Several sites in Massachusetts have shown successful reductions in purple loosestrife coverage and vigor after multiple beetle releases over three to four years.

The DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance - the DAR strives to support, regulate, and enhance the Commonwealth's agricultural community, working to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production.

The Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) is the agency within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs charged with protecting Massachusetts' approximately 1,500-mile coast. Through educational and regulatory programs, CZM seeks to balance human uses of the coastal zone with the need to protect fragile marine resources. The agency's work includes helping coastal communities anticipate and plan for sea level rise and other effects of climate change, working with cities and towns and the federal government to develop boat sewage no-discharge areas, and partnering with communities and other organizations to restore coastal and aquatic habitats.

The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) is responsible for the conservation - including restoration, protection and management - of fish and wildlife resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the public. MassWildlife works to balance the needs of people and wildlife today so that wildlife will be available for everyone's enjoyment today and for future generations.