Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Incredible Edible Invasive Species

What happens when we add value to an invasive species? Adding value means finding a market by creating a demand. How long before market pressure works to off set control and management of the now-in-demand invasive species? Ultimately, the question becomes how soon will enterprising individuals plant or raise species which are potentially or actively destructive to the ecosystem, region or biome?

The Burlington Free Press says the land trust is hoping to expand its group of weed-pulling volunteers by teaching foodies that some invasive plants are welcome in the kitchen. Garlic mustard is good in pesto. Knotweed is similar to rhubarb and can be used in pie.[1] Garlic mustard, Alliaria petiolata (Bieb.) Cavara & Grande , which I am pulling out by the pound in the hopes of not removing it by the ton, and Japanese knotweed, Polygonum cuspidatum Siebold & Zucc., which grows along the road edge near my house, are from my point of view weeds in my landscape. These two invasive plant species destroy the botanical and biological diversity that I prize, and do not provide a relationship or reward to me in return.

At the surface of invasive species issue discussions, such an approach seems to offer a constructive, win-win solution to a sustainable landscape challenge. For once an invasive species multiples enough to do damage, the resources needed to effectively control and manage the invasive species are usually more than society can afford or is willing to pay.
And complicating matters, the carefully wrought consensus definition of an invasive species (I know how carefully the definition was written – I was there) reads:
An invasive species is “…an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.” To provide guidance for the development and implementation of the NISMP, the National Invasive Species Council (NISC) and the Invasive Species Advisory Committee (ISAC) adopted a set of principles outlined in Appendix 6 of the NISMP. Guiding Principle #1 provides additional context for defining the term invasive species and states “many alien species are non-invasive and support human livelihoods or a preferred quality of life." However, some alien species (non-native will be used in this white paper because it is more descriptive than alien), for example West Nile virus, are considered invasive and undesirable by virtually everyone. Other non-native species are not as easily characterized. For example, some non-native species are considered harmful, and therefore, invasive by some sectors of our society while others consider them beneficial. This discontinuity is reflective of the different value systems operating in our free society, and contributes to the complexity of defining the term invasive species. [2]

A problematic dichotomy arises when to distinct constituencies find two incompatible environmental relationships embodied in the particular invasive species. As noted in the ISAC white paper non-native species such as garlic mustard and knotweed are considered harmful to natural ecosystems and their services, and therefore, designated invasive by some sectors of our society while others may come to find and consider the same two species beneficial.
So the stage is set for the continuing conflict between those who interested in sustainable landscapes and functioning ecosystems as a public value with personal satisfaction added, and those who are interested in the market place , also with p[personal satisfaction added, esoecially in a salad. We need to have a conversation about the ecosystem services that are now mostly free. The tragedy of the commons would be a good place to start.

Monday, March 23, 2009
The Chorale and the Garden: Polyphony and Sustainability
Friday, March 20, 2009
Dragon flies and the invasive species threat
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Invasive Species are missing from our "green" conversation
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Invasive species - dead ash tree marketing
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Invasive Species and Ecosystem Service Loss
Friday, February 27, 2009
Invasive Species Definitions Defined
Invasive Species: A Reflection of Values
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Invasive species and ecosystem services; good and bad?

[1] Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Associated Press - April 26, 2009 9:25 AM ET
[2] Beck, K. George and Kenneth Zimmerman, Jeffrey D. Schardt, Jeffrey Stone, Ronald R. Lukens, Sarah Reichard, John Randall, Allegra A. Cangelosi, Diane Cooper, and John Peter Thompson. ISAC 2006. Invasive Species Definition Clarification and Guidance White Paper. [Online] ISAC 2006. http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/docs/council/isacdef.pdf.

Monday, April 27, 2009

White House and Invasive Notes in broad agreement

Nice to know some in the White House agrees with this blog.

“Somehow we the people of the United States have failed to support our once proud center and its double-digit return for every dollar invested over the last 100 years. If we do not support and invest in the science of life, who will? Do we think that China or India will do the science and give it to us for free? We need to tell Congress, and President Obama, to reverse this trend; we need a moon-shot vision that says we shall clothe, feed and fuel the world sustainably and then fund the science and the institution we have in place to do the job.” John Peter Thompson April 27, 2008 Invasive Notes

“The president, citing the race to place an American on the moon in the 1960s as "the high-water mark" of the U.S. commitment to scientific research, pledged today to commit at least 3% of the nation's gross domestic product to research. "If there was ever a day that reminded us" of the importance of that, he said, it is this day.” Mark Silva April 28, 2009
Obama says he has his eye on swine flu threat - Los Angeles Times

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Funding Needs for the US National Agricultural Research Center - BARC

The Henry A. Wallace Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville Maryland (BARC), (maybe some BRAC money can find a way to BARC) the premier national research center of the United States that explores and researchies public safety and supply in food, feed, fuel, fiber, flowers and forests continues to languish. Once upon a time, this institution which developed DEET, and the Thanksgiving turkey, as well as currently providing the science for human nitrtion and our food labels, and doing the research needed on the affects of climate change on our food supply as well as on our environment, had over 450 scientist working on the full range of USDA ARS projects. Today sadly the number is 225 and falling. Somehow we the people of the United States have failed to support our once proud center and its double-digit return for every dollaqr invested over the last 100 years. If we do not support and invest in the science of life, who will? Do we think that China or India will do the science and give it to us for free?

We need to tell Congress, and President Obama, to reverse this trend; we need a moon-shot vision that says we shall clothe, feed and fuel the world sustainably and then fund the science and the institution we have in place to do the job.

http://www.far-b.org Dedicated to Promoting the Research and Education Mission of the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, Maryland
Testimony for the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Committee on Appropriations U. S. House of Representatives Submitted by Vernon G. Pursel, President, Friends of Agricultural Research – Beltsville on April 21, 2009

Madam Chair, and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to present our statement regarding funding for the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and especially for the Agency’s flagship research facility, the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC), in Maryland. Our organization - Friends of Agricultural Research - Beltsville―promotes the Center’s current and long-term agricultural research, outreach, and educational missions. Before going to the heart of our testimony, please allow us to note for the record that during FY-2010 the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center will mark a great historical milestone, a milestone to celebrate the many great and small accomplishments that BARC research has contributed to the nation’s agricultural bounty and to the overall march of scientific progress. A full century will have passed since 1910, the year research in Beltsville began with the assembly of a dairy cattle herd for research purposes. The ensuing BARC story is by all rights a national story - a story of world-class accomplishment. BARC Director Joseph Spence and his staff are planning a series of worthy events to commemorate the centennial year. The Friends of Agricultural Research-Beltsville (FAR-B) is honored to be both a participant in the centennial planning process and a contributor to coming events. We would be pleased, Madam Chair, to answer any questions, to collect any information or citations the Subcommittee might wish regarding the centennial or our testimony.

We now turn to the specifics of our testimony for FY-2010:

Under-Funded Salary Growth. $1,700,000.

First, we appreciate the restoration of items that were recommended for termination in the president’s proposed budget for FY-09. We would hope that the FY-10 budget does not identify additional program terminations at BARC, and we would hope that there will be much needed funding increases. In the FY-09 budget, there was only about half of the needed funding for salary increases that went into effect at the beginning of the year. An unfortunate result of recent annual increases in Federal salaries - without offsetting funding increases— is a negative growth in funding available for discretionary spending on research. This situation has continued for several years now, and it has had a significant negative impact on ARS research. FAR-B strongly recommends funding adjustments to offset the almost yearly decline of net research funding resulting from under-funded salary increases. Research Initiatives. While it is unclear at this time if the FY-10 budget includes funding for additional research at BARC, it is important to point out that BARC conducts many areas of research and that the research is of the highest national priority. BARC research presents many compelling opportunities to reward agriculture, the environment, and the consumer.

Food Safety – $500,000.

The Beltsville Area recently established the largest single food safety unit in ARS. This research unit will focus on a number of issues, including safety of fruits and vegetables and food safety issues related to organic agriculture. The ability exists at BARC to raise crops and animals under farm conditions, and then to process, store, and package the resulting products. A unique feature of the food safety research program at BARC is the ability to propose and test interventions that greatly reduce pathogen exposure in foods, and ultimately in people.

Genomic Prediction – $1,500,000.

The promise of understanding the genome of plants and animals is being fully exploited at Beltsville. In groundbreaking research conducted here, scientists have been able to quickly and accurately identify dairy bulls that will produce daughters capable of producing the most milk. Now a simple test at birth can predict at twice the accuracy and at a cost of about $250 the potential of a bull to sire high producing cows. Traditionally, bull prediction methods have required farmers to obtain production records of 50 to 100 daughters per bull to determine his genetic merit, at a cost up to $50,000 per bull. The potential for developing and expanding this breakout technology is huge and at great savings to dairy farmers and consumers alike.

Climate Change – $1,500,000.

BARC has truly unique growth chambers that can measure and observe plant growth at every stage from root to stem, and under every conceivable atmospheric condition. BARC is using these chambers to measure the effects of increasing atmospheric CO2 and changes in environmental temperatures. Studies are underway not only on agronomically important crops, but also on invasive weeds. Research shows that environmental changes may enhance the rapid growth of invasive plants, thus threatening to exacerbate already costly problems for American agriculture.

Obesity Prevention – $500,000.

Obesity negatively impacts the health and productivity of the American public. Moreover, obesity comes with greatly increased risk of chronic diseases that dramatically add to the
economic costs of health care. The Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC) is researching barriers and facilitators to help the American public follow Federal dietary guidelines. A major research emphasis is to prevent obesity through a better understanding of why people make the food choices they do. This research also will help USDA design and implement more effective food assistance programs. Waste Utilization – $1,000,000. Because it is a working farm and has research scientists who have expertise in animal science, conversion technologies, and environmental science, BARC is an ideal place to study the utilization of farm-generated waste products. Farm-generated waste products can be environmentally harmful, have little or no value to the farmer, and disposal can be costly. Work at Beltsville has led to the effective development of technologies and products that take waste by-products and convert them to valuable new products. Examples include biofuels and plastics made without petroleum.

Trade Enhancement and Global Competitiveness – $2,000,000.

BARC maintains and expands the Federal government’s unique collections of materials and organisms that are of utmost importance in identifying pests and for ensuring that unwanted pests are prevented from entering the U.S. and producing destruction of animals and plants of economic importance. These unique and irreplaceable collections include the Germplasm Resource Information Network, and invaluable reference collections of insects, nematodes, parasites, and fungi. These world-class collections attract leading experts from around the world who study and use them for their own purposes. The collections are absolutely critical to identifying and preventing exotic pest problems from entering the United States through imports or by international travelers as well as demonstrating that our exports are safe. The continued availability of research in this general area of systematics is essential for trade, for homeland security, and for the protection of American agriculture. Chesapeake Bay

Improvement – $500,000.

BARC scientists are working with farmers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to learn how to improve on-farm conservation practices that will improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. The research goals—targeting the entire range of Eastern Shore farming practices—include reducing fertilizer and pesticide usage. A central goal is to create agronomic and animal waste management practices that will reduce fertilizer usage and control pollution runoff. Biocontrol studies are searching out ways to minimize the need for pesticides. Scientists also are using advanced remote sensing and hydrological technologies to protect the health of the Chesapeake watershed. FAR-B strongly recommends continued funding for these high-value, critically needed research initiatives.

Facilities. $30 Million.

Ongoing facility needs at BARC are a reflection of the age of many of the buildings and infrastructure at BARC. As the program and the number of employees has decreased over time
due to lack of funding, the burden of maintaining a large research facility has taken its toll in terms of routine and ongoing maintenance. It is essential that additional funding be provided for general facility maintenance and that plans for facility consolidation move forward. With talk of greatly increased expenditures of the Federal government for facilities projects that are "shovel-ready", it is our hope that the Beltsville Area will be the recipient of a significant amount of those funds. Several projects at BARC are fully designed and ready for construction to begin almost immediately. These include the final phase of construction of the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC), in which existing building 307 will be gutted and rebuilt. This will allow BARC to relocate the entire BHNRC- now spread out at three separate locations - to one location and also free up space for other needed research activities. The completion of this important building renovation is urgently needed at BARC because many of the proposed space consolidations, which will greatly reduce the operating costs at the Center, are dependent on this project. Other projects that are fully designed and ready to go include three projects at the U.S. National Arboretum (USNA). The relocation of the USNA entrances from R Street and New York Avenue to Bladensburg Road is a major project that needs to move forward and will greatly improve public access while relieving traffic congestion on New York Avenue. Finally, the trash abatement project for the cleanup of Hickey Run needs to move forward. Rain runoff produces a great volume of trash as the result of inadequate storm water control by the District of Columbia. This trash accumulates on the property of the USNA. This project is urgently needed to prevent trash from washing onto the arboretum grounds, which now occurs with almost any significant rainfall. This project is also critically importance environmentally and for helping clean up the Anacostia River. The project has been completely designed and, while funds have been appropriated to the DC government and to ARS for this project, funding is not adequate to start construction on this project. FAR-B strongly recommends funding to complete these long delayed, urgently needed facility improvements. Madam Chair, that concludes our statement. We again thank you for the opportunity to present our testimony and for your interest and support.
Vernon G. Pursel, Ph.D. President

Friday, April 10, 2009

Solicitation of Input From Stakeholders on the Roadmap for the National Agricultural Library

The National Agricultural Library (NAL), the largest in the world, is the keeper of the nation's information on food, fuel, feed, fiber, flowers, and forests. They have recently offered for public comment a roadmap for the future. Contrary to the thinking of some, libraries such as NAL have a purpose and fulfill a need supplying the basic information that fuels and feeds the Internet and our national research into fundamental issues of quality of life. If punlic accessibility to knowledge is imprtant to you, please tahe the time to comment.

Solicitation of Input From Stakeholders on the Roadmap for Agricultural Research, Education, and Extension
AGENCY: Research, Education, and Economics Office, USDA.
ACTION: Notice of public comment period for written stakeholder input.-----------------------------------------------------------------------SUMMARY: The Research, Education, and Extension Office (REEO) of the Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is requesting written stakeholder input on the preparation of a roadmap for agricultural research, education, and extension at USDA. The preparation of the Roadmap is mandated by the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008. By this notice, the Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics has been designated to act on behalf of the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) in soliciting public comment from interested parties regarding the preparation of the Roadmap.DATES: All written comments must be received by 5 p.m. EST, May 31, 2009, to be considered.ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by REE-2009-0001, by any of the following methods:[[Page 14768]] Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments. E-mail: Roadmap@osec.usda.gov. Include REE-2009-0001 in the subject line of the message. Fax: (202) 690-1677. Mail: Paper, disk or CD-ROM submissions should be submitted to: Michele Simmons; Research, Education, and Extension Office (REEO); U.S. Department of Agriculture; Mail Stop 0114; 1400 Independence Avenue, SW.; Washington, DC 20250-0114. Hand Delivery/Courier: Michele Simmons; Research, Education, and Extension Office (REEO); U.S. Department of Agriculture; Room 3858-S; 1400 Independence Avenue, SW.; Washington, DC 20250-0114. Instructions: All submissions received must include the title ``Roadmap'' and REE-2009-0001. All comments received will be posted to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided.FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michele Simmons, (202) 720-1777 (phone), (202) 690-1677 (fax), or Roadmap@osec.usda.gov.SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:Additional Comment Procedures Information on the REEO and Roadmap is available for review at http://www.ree.usda.gov. Written comments must be received by 5 p.m. EST, May 31, 2009, to be considered. All comments, when they become available, may be reviewed on the REE Web page for six months.Background and Purpose The preparation of the roadmap for agricultural research, education, and extension is mandated in section 7504 of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (FCEA) of 2008, (Pub. L. 110-246, 7 U.S.C. 7614a. The Secretary, acting through the Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Education (Under Secretary), will prepare the Roadmap. The Secretary will implement and use the Roadmap to set the agricultural research, education, and extension agenda of the Department of Agriculture. The Under Secretary is also the Chief Scientist for USDA, responsible for the coordination of the research, education, and extension activities of the Department. [7 U.S.C. 6971(c)]. The Research, Education, and Extension Office (REEO) recently organized within the Office of the Under Secretary is the office that provides such coordination, per 7 U.S.C. 6971(e)(1). Therefore the Office of the Chief Scientist and Under Secretary is inviting input on the Roadmap to be provided to the REEO by all interested parties from the Federal Government and nongovernmental entities. The Roadmap will identify current trends and constraints and major opportunities and gaps that no single entity within the Department of Agriculture would be able to address individually. Stakeholder input is encouraged on any and all aspects of the development and implementation of the Roadmap, including responses to the following questions: 1. What types of current and future critical issues (including those affecting citizens, communities and natural resources) does agriculture face that no USDA entity could address individually? 2. What criteria should USDA use to prioritize agricultural science (i.e., research, education, and extension) investments to address these issues? 3. How might USDA better coordinate agricultural sciences among its various agencies and with its partners? 4. What are some examples where agricultural sciences are successfully coordinated for maximum benefit? Why are they successful? 5. What are some examples where agricultural sciences are not coordinated effectively? Why is coordination lacking? What are the barriers? 6. What else might USDA do to improve coordination of science; enhance USDA's ability to identify issues and prioritize investments; and elevate its role in science implementation and coordination?Implementation Plans The Under Secretary and the REEO plan to consider stakeholder input received from written comments in developing the Roadmap. The Secretary will make the Roadmap available to the public, with an expected publication date of not later than September 16, 2009. Done at Washington, DC, this 4th day of March, 2009.Katherine Smith,Acting Deputy Under Secretary, Research, Education, and Economics. [FR Doc. E9-7252 Filed 3-31-09; 8:45 am]

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Invasive species beauty springs forth

Springtime in the Mid Atlantic brings out the flowers and fragrances of blossoming trees and shrubs; and, if your knowledge of the landscape is high, the conundrum of the dangerous beauty of invasive species. Like roses in a corn field, purple loosestrife along streams and lionfish escaped from aquariums, the sweep of Callery pears (Pyrus calleryana), also know as Bradford pears, highlights the dichotomy between short term pleasure and long term cost throughout the woodlands of Maryland.

The seeming street and parking lot tree of choice is in full bloom competing with the Japanese cherries. The well-behaved cherries stay in place and are not seen in the woods and natural areas. The promiscuous pears produce hybrid off-spring that multiple unchecked on public and private lands creating a snow-like blanket of white along the roads and by-ways. The beauty is magnificent at a distance the smell up close is memorable; the damage to cars as limbs crash on roof tops is insurable.

Like the rose in the garden, the Bradford pear is beautiful in bloom, but is otherwise a weed competing for scarce resources and lowering the the harvest yield. Gardeners are very aware that some plants run amok and need to be controlled, removed and not planted near the garden. The Bradford pear damages the yield (services) of the ecosystem in to which is spreads. The non native tree creates biological deserts or monocultures reducing the amount of diversity. The homogenization of the landscape destroys the sense of place special to each location.

Another native worth considering in the landscape as an alternative to the ubiquitous pear is the green hawthorn (Crataegus viridis). Unlike the invasive pear, the hawthorn has four seasons of landscape ornamental interest from spring flowers, and summer foliage, to fall color and winter berries. The invasive Bradford pear hides its true destructive nature behind a fleeting spring display. As Vergil might have written: “Quidquid id est, timeo Prunos et dona ferentis

Friday, April 03, 2009

The establishment of a single body to bring together invasive species related resources and activities ...not quite yet

Well does any of this sound familiar? Maybe someday the U. S. will actually fund its National Invasive Species Council.

"The authors of the paper, who recently edited the Handbook of Alien Species in Europe2, recommend the European Parliament and Council give serious consideration to the establishment of a single body to bring together invasive species related resources and activities currently dispersed amongst the various European institutions. This body, which they call the European Centre for Invasive Species Management (ECISM), would have a mission to identify, assess and communicate current and emerging threats to the economy and environment posed by invasive species. ECISM would coordinate activities across Member States, building a Europe-wide surveillance system which could monitor emerging threats, support rapid response and raise public awareness around the issues of invasive species.

The idea is sound, but such a Centre would face considerable challenges. For example, the major policy driver of a single EU market for goods and people favours the spread of invasive species, the number of alien species introductions continues to increase year on year, and public awareness of the impact of those species is little more than 2%. Unfortunately, these factors make the formation of such a body all the more challenging and only time will tell if Europe is able to meet that challenge."http://www.labspaces.net/96786/Will_Europe_at_last_unite_to_combat_thousands_of_alien_invaders_

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Annapolis Ordinance No. O-05-09: a Disservice to Invasive Species Issues

The capitol city of Maryland, Annapolis, is considering an ordinance “…to prohibit invasive plants on any lot or parcel of land within the City unless the plant is completed contained to control growth and prevent encroachment.”[1] But because this is not a bill to protect natural area ecosystem services but to enforce taste and tranquility on neighboring residents without adding to city expenses, the ordinance makes sweeping exceptions that include “… bona fide agricultural property, natural wooded areas, unimproved areas of more than three acres, public parks and recreational property being specifically maintained as natural areas, private open space areas covenanted with the City as recreational areas to be maintained in their natural state, and areas where vegetation is deemed necessary for soil stabilization and erosion control…” Quite effectively the city of Annapolis guts the reason to be concerned about invasive species – the protection of natural areas’ ecosystems and their services.

Hiding behind invasive species to promulgate a weed law will negatively impact public perception of valid invasive species programs. If Annapolis does not like some ornamental plants, then the city should say so. If Annapolis wants to help the ecosystem then prohibit the species on ALL the land not just the land of private citizens, and present a model law, public costs and all included.

Ordinance No. O-05-09 does a poor job at defining everything from an invasive plant to the concept of containment. This is a legislative attempt to solve a dispute between neighbors; it is not an effort to control and mitigate the damage to the environment that invasive species can cause.

· Annapolis MD's Ordinance No. O-05-09 does not mention the National Invasive Species Council Advisory Committee federal definition white paper that explores the definition of invasive species at length
· U. S. Executive Order 13112 – defines an invasive species as “an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.”
· Ordinance No. O-05-09 makes no mention of the Maryland Invasive Species Council’s advisory list. The ordinance does however cite an educational list from the southeastern United States.
· Invasive species are harmful to natural area eco-systems that are exempt under Ordinance No. O-05-09. The proposed law exempts natural areas and parks, and landscapes most harmed by invasive species. The exemption makes little sense as many invasive plant species have traditional ornamental value providing at least a high level eco-system informing or cultural service.
· Ordinance No. O-05-09 does not define containment.
· Ordinance No. O-05-09 does not prohibit the planting or growth of invasive plants; it requires that such plants be contained by barriers or other similar means so as to keep the plants from encroaching upon abutting property, city easements, or public right-of-ways. However it does not require the City to remove invasive species from its public lands setting up the possible endless cycle of removal by private property owners, ad infinitum.
· Ordinance No. O-05-09 presents, as substantiating reasons, definitions of traditional landscape ground covers as reasons to ban traditional landscape groundcovers that have few, if any, natural predators, such as herbivores and diseases, to keep them in check. Many ornamental ground covers share some important characteristics that allow them to grow quickly in adverse, high human traffic situations. These include: (1) spreading aggressively by runners or rhizomes; (2) producing large numbers of seeds that survive to germinate; and (3) dispersing seeds away from the parent plant through various means such as wind, water, wildlife and people. This is a circular argument.
· The ordinance fails to address the natural area implications of invasive species impacts using language meant for “natural” undeveloped land.

[1] O-05-09; Invasive Plants: http://www.ci.annapolis.md.us/upload/images/government/council/Pending/O0509.pdf

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Invasive species: wavyleaf basketgrass - Oplismenus hirtellus subsp. undulatifolius

An invasive species is spreading from the Baltimore area of Maryland south to Washington and west to the Blue Ridge of Virginia. Like a fire in the forest, wavyleaf basketgrass (Oplismenus hirtellus subsp. undulatifolius (Ard.) U. Scholz, Phanerog. Monogr.) [1] is spreading rapidly and replacing the natural diversity with its mono-culture habit of eco-system and eco-service destruction. This grass, which remains taxonomically confused and, therefore, not precisely identified or categorized, is spreading in public parks and on private lands in the Baltimore Washington Metropolitan area. picture from www.forestryimages.org/images/768x512/5390042.jpg
Image may be subject to copyright

Some species within the genus are sold in a highly unstable variegated form in the nursery, reportedly under a number of names, including Pancum spp. This species is not yet identified as the species loose in the public lands. Maryland Department of Natural resources reports that ”The native grasses are basketgrass (Oplismenus hirtellus) and its related native subspecies bristle basketgrass (Oplismenus hirtellus ssp. setarius). The exotic subspecies is wavyleaf basketgrass (Oplismenus hirtellus ssp. undulatifolius), and up to the summer of 2008, Maryland was the only place on the North American continent that this grass had been reported.”
There is an ongoing effort of some stakeholders to eradicate this species while before it becomes another overwhelming challenge to our natural systems and gardens Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum (Trin.) Camus). In November, 2006, I posted an essay about Oplismenus hirtellus subsp undulatifolius, and have been following its progress ever since: v. Sunday, 2007: Invasive Species follow up: Basket Grass Removal in Beltsville

At a high philosophical level, the stakeholders interested in this newly detected invasive species are divided by the precautionary principle on the one hand and the proactionary principle on the other. The precautionary stakeholders want action now because they believe that there “… is a moral and political principle which states that if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on those who would advocate taking the action.” The proactionary parties are guided by their belief system are opposed to early action “… when restrictive measures are proposed: Assess risks and opportunities according to available science, not popular perception.”

Effectively what this means is that one side wants to go “public” and ask gardeners and horticulture in general to voluntarily stop selling and planting whatever species they are selling until the correct taxonomy is established the confusion: The other side is unwilling to shout fire in a crowded theater, and wants to wait because the prima facie evidence is that the plant species in the trade - no matter how aggressive - is different from the one running loose in the mid Atlantic woodlands. And effectively, a chance for early detection and rapid response is fading. Sic transit mundi

[1] Peterson, Paul M.. Department of Botany, MRC-166, United States National Herbarium
National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution Washington, DC 20013-7012, 202-633-0975, Fax 202-786-2563; peterson@si.edu :

The taxon [Oplismenus hirtellus subsp. undulatifolius (Ard.) U. Scholz, Phanerog. Monogr. 13:147. 1981. Panicum undulatifolium Ard., Animad. Spec. Alt. 14, pl. 4. 1764. Oplismenus undulatifolius (Ard.) P. Beauv., Ess. Agrostogr. 54, 168, 171. 1812, nom. nud. Oplismenus undulatifolius (Ard.) Roem. & Schult., Syst. Veg. (ed. 15) 2: 482. 1817. Orthopogon undulatifolius (Ard.) Spreng., Syst. Veg. 1: 306. 1824 (1825). Type: ITALY. cultivated, Arduino s.n. (holotype: M; isotype: C).] as treated by Scholz (1981) and all others is temperate in distribution, and is said to be found in “damp shady places” by Clayton (1980); ranges from Spain, northern Italy, former Yugoslavia through the Caucases to southeast Asia (Scholz, Pp. 147−155). In Tsevlev (1983) it says the taxon is found “in deciduous forests, among shrubs, forest glades, gardens and parks; up to lower mountain belt….Mediterranean, Asia Minor, Iran, Himalayas, Japan, China (southern part).”