It's now illegal to sell Japanese barberry [opinion]

·3 min read

Oct. 17—As of Oct. 6, it became illegal to sell Japanese barberry, a small shrub popular with landscapers for being tough, deer-resistant yet elegant. The shrub can reach 4 feet and has arching branches and spoon-shaped leaves that range from light yellow to dark red.

It can grow unchecked by predators or diseases, and it takes space and sunlight away from native plants and trees. And areas with a lot of Japanese barberry often have more of the kind of ticks that carry Lyme disease, according to research from the University of Connecticut.

Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergia) and two other invasive species were added to the list of plants that are illegal to propagate or sell in Pennsylvania.

Also added to the Noxious Weed List by the Department of Agriculture Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Committee were Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) and garlic mustard (alliaria petiolate).

According to the Pennsylvania Invasive Species Council News, until the Department of Agriculture develops a process to apply for permission to sell sterile varieties, both sterile and nonsterile varieties are banned.

The council also said the first two years of enforcement generally will be incremental, to allow for outreach to plant merchants, landscape professionals and other states and enable the industry to work toward compliance.

Noxious weeds are determined to be injurious to public health, crops, livestock and agricultural land or other property and cannot be sold, transported, planted or otherwise propagated in Pennsylvania.Class B noxious weeds are widely established and cannot feasibly be eradicated.

Pennsylvania has set up a new framework that would manage invasive species regionally.

"The need for extensive partnership yet the flexibility to respond rapidly at the local level when a species is becoming a threat is a critical gap in Pennsylvania's current management of invasive species," the council said in its newsletter.

To fill this gap, a Pennsylvania Invasive Species Council (PISC) committee has developed a plan for Pennsylvania to adopt the "Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management" (PRISM) framework, used by other states.

Host organizations would develop and coordinate partnerships in six regions in Pennsylvania. Each region would set its on priorities, objectives and strategic plan.

This is something that other states have done but with funding. PISC is reaching out to stakeholders to secure state funding to support implementation of a PRISM program in Pennsylvania.

This is an effort that should be commended. By the way, there are three Berks County folks on the council: Piper Sherburne of Alburtis, who leads the Berks County Conservation District and is Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts representative on the council; Kate Harms of Mertztown, who is executive director of Pennsylvania Lake Management Association; and Gloria Day of Leesport, who is director of Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association. Day is a former Berks Country columnist who owns a landscape, design and maintenance company.

Want to learn more about invasives?

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, chaired by Sen. Gene Yaw, held the state legislature's first ever hearing on the economic impacts of invasive species in August. Watch a video of the hearing, read highlights (PDF) or read the complete testimonials (PDF).

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