The Green Menace

The Green Menace

Habitat destruction is the number one greatest threat to biodiversity, and second place goes to the spread of invasive species. Invasive plants overcrowd native vegetation, affect animal habitats and can even increase flooding and fire hazards. While most landscape plants are not invasive, species that do escape and invade can cause major ecological damage.

According to the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers (CANGC), which represents wholesale nursery growers, retail garden centers and associated businesses in California, the landscape trade is to blame for about 85 percent of invasive woody plants in the United States, while 53 percent of California’s invasive species have horticultural origins.

In order to prevent the spread of invasive species, CANGC recently approved voluntary codes of conduct for nursery professionals to follow to prevent aggressive plant invasions.

CANGC is developing a plan for implementing the codes in California garden centers and nurseries by participating in Cal-HIP, a collaborative industry effort to prevent garden plants from invading wildlands in California. Cal-HIP is working to find and identify problem plants in California’s various regions. They’ll then recommend safer but just as attractive alternative plants for nurseries to offer. Education will be a big part of the process, and Cal-HIP coordinator Terri Kempton says working with the horticultural industry will be an essential part of eradicating the problem. “As we educate the industry, we’re trying not to focus on what can’t be sold, as much as where we need to shift our energies,” she says.

Cal-HIP plans to give growers a chance to adjust their crops and retailers a chance to adjust what they sell in a way that works for them and then use positive public relations to help them promote the alternatives. “Next growing season we’ll be making a huge educational push to the gardening public, and that’s to try to make sure we’re supporting the industry by shifting consumer demand away from invasives and toward alternatives,” says Kempton.

Future plans also include development of a predictive protocol or risk assessment tool that will help determine ahead of time if a plant is likely to become invasive. “Nurseries will have a little bit of power in their hands to be able to make some good choices,” says Kempton. “We want to make sure we’re protecting our resources, and we can do that by making sure the plants we use in our gardens and landscapes will not invade wildlands.” 

Research And Collaboration

Colorado State University scientists are also spearheading a project to combat invasive species. They are encouraging researchers around the world to collaborate to predict the behavior of invasive species and the ecology and evolution of the invasions. The project is being funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The network of scientists involved in Colorado State University’s project will hold annual gatherings for researchers to develop a framework based on the latest information they’ve gathered. They’ll then coordinate research projects by exchanging research and holding educational symposiums. The group also will develop lesson plans to educate the public about the consequences invasive species can have on ecosystems.

“Basically, people are just blissfully ignorant, and we don’t realize that plant we’re buying from the nursery from South Africa might turn into a problem,” says Colorado State University professor of weed science George Beck. “This is a very significant ecological issue that cannot be ignored. If we continue to ignore it, we’re going to lose a lot of economic vitality.”

Researchers have several different hypotheses on how and why invasive species take over. Colorado State’s project will look at the possibility that all the hypotheses work simultaneously to allow biological invasions.

Ruth Hufbauer, lead researcher on the project, says the idea for the grant was to get a group of scientists together to integrate these hypotheses and figure out how they relate to each other, ultimately to draw general patterns for what is working when.

“There are a lot of ideas people have for why invasions happen,” Hufbauer says. “You might think that the plants and animals in a place are really well adapted to that particular climate and environment and they would be able to outcompete something that came from elsewhere, but that’s not what happens. Somehow things come from elsewhere and do a lot better, and there are a lot of different ideas about why this is. Understanding which of those ideas is more correct or fits in different situations is really critical, because it influences the way you manage things.”

 

Enemies Provide Balance

One of the hypotheses is that certain species leave their natural enemies behind when they’re introduced in new locations, which allows them to thrive. The native plants that live in the same location, however, are still susceptible to the pests and diseases that affect them, causing those plants to lose ground to the new, invasive species.

Another hypothesis is that the invaders do well when there’s a lot of disturbance in an area.

“It’s a symptom of a system that isn’t being well cared for,” says Hufbauer.

The problem, though, is it’s difficult to determine which of these theories is correct, and Hufbauer notes that until we know exactly what’s causing an invasion, it could be detrimental to attempt treatment. “If natural enemies (theory) is correct, that suggests that you could do something like biological control — introduce some of the very specialized things to help bring back some kind of balance of nature. But if it’s not correct, then doing biological control has many inherent risks,” says Hufbauer. “If enemy release isn’t what’s driving the invasion, then you’re not going to get anywhere by introducing something.”

The best solution, of course, would be to avoid the problem altogether by supporting the planting of natives, Hufbauer adds. While a groundcover from Siberia, for example, may perform well in colder U.S. climates, it may not be the best choice. “Things like that can be fantastic and beautiful, but they also pose a really big risk because they can go wild,” she explains. “We all love our beautiful plants and flowers, but unfortunately it turns out there can be consequences to that in the long run.”

Hufbauer says Colorado State’s project will help uncover the most important questions in invasion biology and how those questions can be addressed.

“In terms of the science, it’s really just to come to grips and have some definitive answers for people about why invasions happen,” she says.

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...

September 24, 2016

Plantarium 2016 Honors Winning Novelty Varieties

Novelties at Plantarium 2016 were judged by an expert committee from the Royal Boskoop Horticultural Society.

Read More
mukgenia-nova-flame-terra-nova-nurseries-feature

September 23, 2016

Growers Offer Advice On How To Grow Mukgenia ‘Nova Flame’

‘Nova Flame’ is best brought in as a summer or fall crop and bulked over the winter.

Read More
deutzia-yuki-snowflake

September 22, 2016

Allan Armitage Suggests Plants That “Even My Neighbors Will Try”

When the urge to garden strikes, every homeowner needs a few plants like these for their yard.

Read More
Latest Stories

September 24, 2016

Plantarium 2016 Honors Winning Novelty Varieties

Novelties at Plantarium 2016 were judged by an expert committee from the Royal Boskoop Horticultural Society.

Read More
mukgenia-nova-flame-terra-nova-nurseries-feature

September 23, 2016

Growers Offer Advice On How To Grow Mukgenia ‘Nova Flam…

‘Nova Flame’ is best brought in as a summer or fall crop and bulked over the winter.

Read More
deutzia-yuki-snowflake

September 22, 2016

Allan Armitage Suggests Plants That “Even My Neig…

When the urge to garden strikes, every homeowner needs a few plants like these for their yard.

Read More
Phlox 'Pink Profusion' (Green Leaf Plants)

September 13, 2016

Aris Horticulture Names Blair Hoey As Managing Director…

Hoey brings more than 20 years of greenhouse production and management experience to Green Leaf Plants, a young plant supplier of perennials serving the U.S. and Canadian markets.

Read More
hibiscus-hollywood-hot-shot

September 12, 2016

New Variety Award Winners Announced At Farwest 2016

A panel of industry experts, as well as show attendees, selected a thornless blackberry and a hydrangea for the top honors.

Read More

September 7, 2016

Check Out The Best Annuals For Attracting Bees And Butt…

Public interest in protecting bees and other pollinators has initiated a new market for flowers that are good food plants for pollinators. Here's a list of annuals Michigan State University Extension recommends that are attractive to bees and other pollinators.

Read More

September 6, 2016

10 Colorful Spring Plants For Sales In 2017

Trends with plants come and go, but color always sells. These spring crops for 2017 offer color choices ranging from bold and vibrant hues to understated, softer tones, and they’re versatile enough to be used in baskets, containers, beds, and borders.

Read More

September 5, 2016

7 New Shrubs And Foliage Plants For Spring Interest

Perennials and annuals aren’t the only plants that supply spring color to the garden. Shrubs and foliage plants also add color and interest and are a great way to round out your spring product mix.

Read More
Janikia Eckert

September 4, 2016

All-America Selections Presents Achievement Awards At I…

Jim Nau of Ball Horticultural received the AAS Medallion of Honor, while Janika Eckert of Johnny’s Selected Seeds took home the Breeders Cup.

Read More
Phlox 'Pink Profusion' (Green Leaf Plants)

August 30, 2016

14 Cool Season Plants To Kick Off The Spring Season

These new cultivar introductions for 2016 are spring bloomers that can take the cold for early-season sales.

Read More
Penn State University Trial Day

August 26, 2016

How Greenhouse Growers Can Broaden Their Horizons

Allan Armitage says you can learn new ideas to help your business when you get out to visit plant trials and other growers.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Kick Spring Sales Up A Notch With 20 New Plant Introduc…

It’s time to look forward to the spring season and what plants will get your business off to the right start. These 18 new cultivars have all the traits of good breeding — uniform habits, bold colors, showy blooms, good vigor, and excellent branching.

Read More

August 23, 2016

Gardens Alive! Parent Company Buys Zelenka Farms

  Zelenka Farms, which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, says LM Farms, which owns Gardens Alive!, has purchased the company and all of its assets. BFN Operations LLC and its affiliated entities, d/b/a Zelenka Farms, operated one of the largest wholesale nurseries in the U.S. Its products include shrubs, trees, perennials, roses, and groundcovers. The owners of Gardens Alive! have successfully purchased several other companies from bankruptcy and are experienced nursery managers. Niles Kinerk, Chairman of LM Farms, stated that “the opportunity to purchase Zelenka Farms assets and to continue the turnaround that is well underway is exactly the kind of opportunity that we look for. We understand the efforts of the management team led by Eric Ek and others have been successful, and we will support the management team in the coming months and years.” Zelenka Farms operates its six facilities across the key growing regions in the […]

Read More
Coreopsis-UpTickCream-19793-DarwinPerennials

August 20, 2016

Growing Tips On Coreopsis UpTick Series From John Wilso…

Editor’s Note: In this new feature, the Greenhouse Grower varieties team will choose one noteworthy variety each month we think is worth bringing to your attention. Then we’ll share growers’ and breeders’ perspectives on the best ways to produce it successfully at your operation. This month we focus on the hardy Coreopsis UpTick series, winner of Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Industry’s Choice Medal of Excellence for Breeding. Growing Tips From John Wilson, Seville Farms When asked about producing Coreopsis UpTick, John Wilson says he doesn’t have much to say because it was so easy to grow. Wilson, a Corporate Grower for Seville Farms, says based on the new series’ strong performance during the trialing he has done so far, the nursery ordered a large quantity of the plants for future growing. “If breeders were looking to come up with something that says ‘wow,’ they have done it with the UpTick Series,” […]

Read More
Eucomis arrangement from Golden State Bulb

August 19, 2016

What’s New With Blooming Potted Plants

From exotic orchids and lilies to flashy red cyclamen and jaunty gerberas, new blooming potted plants come in every shape, size, and color.

Read More
Craspedia Golf Ball Beauty (Danziger)

August 19, 2016

Learn How Unconventional Plants Can Be Hidden Gems

According to Kelly Norris, plant breeding inspired by consumer motivations and interests restores our connection with consumers thirsty for out-of-the-ordinary plants.

Read More
Petunia 'Moonstruck' (2015 Welby Gardens Field Trials)

August 9, 2016

Welby Gardens Names Top Selections From Its Trial Garde…

Welby Gardens, an exclusive grower of Hardy Boy Plants, tested more than 900 varieties this year in its field and container trials. Find out which varieties were the cream of the crop.

Read More

August 6, 2016

Growing Tips On Petunia ‘Night Sky’ From Da…

Production tips for Petunia ‘Night Sky’ from Dan Chaney, Vice President of Production, at Ivy Acres.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]