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Prohibited Plant List - FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about the Massachusetts Prohibited Plant List

Q: Why are invasive plants a threat?

A: Invasive plants typically have few (if any) natural enemies and a very high reproductive rate. These and other characteristics allow invasive plants to out compete native plants, which can lead to the disruption of ecosystems.

Q: I have a Norway maple and burning bush plant as a part of my landscaping. How will this ban affect me?

A: The rule does not affect existing plantings already within the landscape. Only the importation, sale, propagation and related activities for the listed plants are affected.

Q: Will it be illegal for me to transport and plant Norway maple (or other listed plant) from another state?

A: Yes. The purpose of the ban is to stop the spread of invasive plants in Massachusetts. Introducing plants from another state can increase the risk of the unintentional release/introduction of harmful pests and pathogens.

Q: Is there a list of alternative species to the plants that are banned?

A: Several lists are available online, and many local nurseries now provide lists or tag plants. One such list is provided by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

Q: What can I do about the invasive plants invading my property?

A: Best management practices for controlling invasive plants on your property will depend upon the species of plant, the level of infestation, and other factors, including whether the property is in or near a wetland. There are many online resources available that explain the various control options, from cutting or pulling plants, to mowing, to herbicide application. More extensive infestations or more pervasive plants may require the assistance of a landscaper, arborist, or someone familiar with invasive plant management issues.

Q: My neighbor's Norway maple has been releasing seeds onto my lawn. Will this ban force him to cut down his tree?

A: The ban does not affect existing plants/trees already within the landscape. Norway maple saplings can be easily hand pulled or mowed to eliminate infestations in managed landscapes such as lawns.

Q: I have a barberry hedge. An accident at the corner destroyed 10 feet of my 75 feet of hedge. Can I purchase the material I need to fill this gap?

A: No. No listed plant can be sold or propagated in Massachusetts. There are, however, alternatives to barberry that can be used to fill the gap within your border. For example, winterberry is considered a good substitute for barberry. Your local nursery or landscaper should also be able to recommend a suitable alternative.

Q: I’ve noticed that a few aquarium plants are listed. How can aquarium plants threaten the ecosystem if they are contained within one's home?

A: Aquarium plants can be released both accidentally and intentionally from aquariums and ponds. Brazilian waterweed is an excellent example of an aquarium plant now impacting waterways in New England.

Q. Isn't it too late? Purple loosestrife, for example, is everywhere. What good does banning it now do?

A: While it is true that some of the Prohibited Plant Species are already widespread in the environment, in many cases there are local efforts to control these species, especially in habitats where they are not yet widespread or where the habitat is particularly important or sensitive. Given that there are ongoing efforts to control these species, it does not make sense to allow for their continued introduction.

Q. A lot of these plants are tropical and would not grow in Massachusetts. What purpose does banning these plants serve?

A: Several of the species on the Prohibited Plant List are there because along with the invasive plants assessed by the Mass. Invasive Plant Advisory Group (MIPAG), MDAR also listed all plants on the federal Noxious Weed List. Many Federal Noxious Weeds have never been found in the USA, and are listed because they would pose a significant threat to our country's agricultural commodities were they to establish here. DAR has listed these species in order to compliment existing federal requirements that they not be brought into the country.

Q: What about sterile hybrids, or cultivars of invasive plant species labeled as "non-invasive"?

A: Until such time that MDAR nursery inspectors are able to clearly recognize that a hybrid, variety, or cultivar of a species on the Prohibited Plant List is truly non-invasive or sterile (does not produce viable seed), these plants will be included in the list. Also note that invasive plants often spread by more than one method, and may have the ability to reproduce vegetatively in a way that negatively impacts the environment.

Q: I have burning bush in my yard and I can barely keep it alive. How can MDAR say that it is invasive?

A: Whether an invasive plant will spread depends on a number of factors, including soil, light, water, cultivar traits, etc. All of the species on the Prohibited Plant List were assessed for invasiveness by either the Mass. Invasive Plant Advisory Group (MIPAG) or are federally-listed Noxious Weeds. That means scientific assessments were performed to determine the potential impacts caused by these plants. Since mitigating factors that could keep an invasive plant from spreading at a particular site cannot be predicted or effectively controlled for, MDAR has determined that it makes sense to prohibit listed species.

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