Did you know that plant, tree or shrub you purchased at a garden center might have been illegal to sell in Indiana?
Megan Abraham, director of the state division of entomology and plant pathology, knows all about it. She and her co-workers are tasked with ensuring the plants sold in Indiana do not include 44 terrestrial plants listed in the regulation signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb in April 2020.
More about the rule:Rule bans sale of 44 plant species in Indiana
“We are making good headway with most of our dealers and nurseries,” Abraham recently told The Herald-Times.
But there are some retailers, usually chain stores where other companies supply the plants sold in the gardening section, that sometimes have one or two invasive plants for sale. It’s often difficult to determine who is ordering those plants and contact them, Abraham said.
“They are probably distributing the plants to most of the Midwest,” she said. “It could be someone on the other side of the country.”
Those people often have no idea the sale of some plants is prohibited in Indiana, Abraham said.
But if someone in a store notices a plant that’s on the terrestrial invasive plant species list, Abraham hopes they will contact her division, at firstname.lastname@example.org, so they can remove the plants from store shelves as soon as possible.
“Let us know which location you’re at, which store and what you saw. We’ll give that information to the inspector and get them out there.”
Once a state inspector finds prohibited species, those plants are destroyed. They are not shipped back to the company, Abraham said.
Destroying the plants sends a message. If enough plants are destroyed, the company usually pays attention.
“Economically, it’s not a good idea to send us plants just so we can destroy them,” Abraham said.
When the terrestrial plant regulation first went into effect state officials educated people at nurseries and garden centers about the changes — before invasive plants were destroyed in most cases. The law went into effect over the course of several months, and implementation was a slow process.
Not all plants considered invasive in Indiana are on the list. Many of the plants on the list were once desirable, such as Asian bush honeysuckle.
The plants on the list are not native and are too aggressive, taking over habitat from native plants. The regulation is to attempt to minimize the impact invasive plants can have on other plants and wildlife throughout the Hoosier state.
The current list, which can be found at https://bit.ly/3lO2eT2, will be reviewed in the near future, Abraham said. She expects a few more plants, possibly Callery pear, Norway maple and burning bush, will be added to the list.
“We’re working on a fiscal analysis right now to determine which plants will go into that, as well as which plants we need to educate the public about,” she said.
The fiscal impact portion of the study will take nine months to a year, Abraham said. State inspectors have to go to nurseries and determine how many of the plants that may be placed on the list are currently for sale. She hopes the list of possible additional plants will be submitted for review this winter.
Once new plant species are added to the list, it will take time before they disappear completely from Indiana nurseries and garden centers. The same warning procedure used when the rule was first enforced will be utilized with the new plants, allowing nurseries and garden centers time to remove the plants from their stock.
“The economic impact on small businesses would have been too much,” Abraham explained, adding that the goal is not to cause financial hardship for businesses but to educate them about the regulation.
Slowly, after warnings have been issued, state inspectors revisit the businesses. Most times, the plants are no longer for sale.
“We’re seeing fewer of them being sold out there, so it’s working,” Abraham said. “Pressure from the public about what is being sold in the nursery is helping.”
More help from the public
Anyone who wants to help rid Indiana of invasive plants and also add native plants into the landscape has many options.
Reaching out to the local Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area personnel is one of the best ways to get involved, according to Dawn Slack, director of stewardship for The Nature Conservancy, chair of the Invasive Plant Advisory Committee and project coordinator for the Indiana Invasives Initiative.
The Indiana Invasives Initiative was the result of a 2017 agreement between the Southern Indiana Cooperative Invasives Management and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Both agencies had been working for years to combat invasive plants while also raising awareness of the damage the plants can cause.
Getting information out to as many people as possible is what the groups do, offering free classes. Currently, there are cooperative invasive management groups in 34 counties, representing about 40 Hoosier counties.
The groups also conduct weed wrangles, which are scheduled events at specific locations to learn to identify and help irradicate invasive plants. Information on how to manage the invasive plants is provided to anyone who asks.
The hope is that neighborhood by neighborhood, community by community, native habitat can be reestablished and flourish across Indiana.
“We can all build that native habitat,” Slack said. “We’re building that from the ground up in a grassroots effort.”
About 85% of the invasive plant species found in state parks come from other landscaped areas of the state, Slack said. More often than not, those invasive plants originated at a person’s home.
As a way to lessen the spread of invasives, Indiana Invasives and cooperative management groups offer free surveys to landowners as well as parks and other property owners.
The groups can write up a plan and give advice on how to eradicate invasive plants from the property. Afterward, the groups return to see if the plan is working. There have been more than 300 management plans written for people in the past 3 1/2 years, Slack said.
“They want to have native habitat,” she said. “They want to be part of the solution.”
A Monroe County group
Monroe County has its own group — Monroe County-Identify and Reduce Invasive Species. MC-IRIS provides education, conducts weed wrangles and offers resources for people to better care for their land.
One of the group’s projects is to pick an invasive plant species each year and challenge residents to help remove it from the landscape, whether at a person’s home, business or a public park. That initiative is known as the Reduce One Invasive Species Challenge. People throughout Monroe County are encouraged to learn about that year’s invasive plant and prioritize its removal from their land. The hope is that by focusing on one invasive plant, more people learn how to identify, control and dispose of it.
The first year, 2020, the focus was Asian bush honeysuckle. This year it’s purple wintercreeper.
This year’s invasive plant:Purple Wintercreeper creeps: Reduce One Invasive Species Challenge: 2021 Purple Wintercreeper
Next year’s focus will be Callery pear, which isn’t on the terrestrial plant list but is one of the plants that may be added to the list. Callery pear trees were planted in many communities. The fruit is often eaten by birds and other wildlife, which spreads the seeds to neighboring properties, right-of-ways, forests and wetlands. Besides out-competing native trees, the Callery pear negatively impacts wildlife and their habitat.
Anyone who wants to learn more can go online to mc-iris.org.
Contact Carol Kugler at email@example.com, 812-331-4359 or @ckugler on Twitter.