Thursday, October 19, 2006

Barberry, government, education, invasive or pervasive

Once again, I find another example of the intersection of conflicting goals when it comes to landscape choices, invasive species, and landscape solutions. The Mid Atlantic Exotic Pest Plant Council’s list-serve has been alive with posts about a public school property and the landscape decision to plant Japanese barberry, Berberis thunbergii. Here is the original posting:

I am writing from Harford County MD. Bel Air High school is scheduled to be rebuilt. Athletic fields and parking lots are being redesigned. This is county property. There are several things about this project which are very disturbing to me but I will limit this msg to only one. The county has hired a designer who plans to plant Japanese Barberry, Berberis thunbergii, scores of them. An executive order was signed at the White House several years ago. Does this only apply to Federal Property? Does Maryland have any such provision for individual counties? I understand that the state has rescinded JB from its noxious weed list. Can anyone quote or provide a link to some authority with some teeth in it that I can pass on to the designer to prevent planting JB while this is still in the planning phase?Sam Jones

Among the responses was this comprehensive one from Kerrie Kyde, which sums up the current state of confusion.

“A couple things...Japanese Barberry has never been on the MD state noxious weed list. That list is six species long, mostly thistles and Johnson grass and Multiflorarose as an associated species. The state currently has no existing laws or regulations that forbid counties, individuals or companies from planting species or cvs that most of us would rather not see planted. In most cases, the county planning boards or zoning boards, or the local governmental agency that oversees development and enforces Code, has a list of OK species to plant. Most developers use those lists. In many cases,those lists are not up to date with respect to species now known to be or become problem plants in natural areas. Or even in gardens. When you refer to the federal executive order, are you referring to Clinton's executive order from February 1999? I am not aware of anything inthat Order, which set up NISC and encourages federal agencies to make decisions incorporating planning about combating invasive species, nor anything in the National Invasive Species Management Plan, that specifically forbids any federal agency from using invasive or even simply exotic species in their planting plans. I would be most happy to be corrected on this point, and have someone show me language in these documents that limits federal activities with respect to plant species. But I think you're out of luck on legislative or regulatory back-up to your position, unfortunately. Can you get the ear of a member of the County Council, or speak to someone in the county DEP or similar agency?”

Many others also responded with calls to support and web-sites to visit, but in the end, the only remedy is a persuasive assault on the better nature of the planning group, the developer and the landscape architect. Of course political support from the neighborhood would be an excellent way to get attention, but requires a Don Quixote to spend personal time tilting at the plan.

As I wrote in an earlier posting, professionals and the public need to be educated so that they can make decisions in an informed fashion. Further, the question as to species versus cultivars will come up. Is it only the species which is invasive or are there sterile varieties? There is some considerable work being done to find true sterile cultivars. However the list of cultivars is lengthy as is the landscape use of this species as this list copied from the Clemson extension web-site shows.

Var. atropurpurea – The leaves assume reddish to purplish shades. The yellow flowers are tinged with purple, but the fruits are the same bright red as those of the species.
Var. atropurpurea ‘Crimson Pygmy’ – This is the most popular Japanese barberry selection. This low, dense plant grows to 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The foliage color is best when grown in full sun.
Var. atropurpurea ‘Rose Glow’ – The new leaves are rose-pink, mottled with deeper red-purple splotches. The colors gradually mature to a deep reddish purple. This variety has become extremely popular in the South. It grows to about 6 feet tall.
‘Aurea’ – The leaves of this dense, relatively slow-growing shrub are bright yellow. It does not flower or fruit heavily.
‘Kobold’ – Its habit is similar to that of a compact Japanese holly or boxwood. The shrub grows to 2 feet at maturity and forms a perfect mound without pruning.

A plant that is remarkable for its abilities to spread in its natural setting is usually a plant that needs to be thought about in an exotic setting.

Ok, enough for now, I am off to try to complete my Miscanthus posting before I lose your attention

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