What’s in your landscape?

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Photo by: John Ruter, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

HARRISBURG – The PA Department of Agriculture has added three common landscaping plants to the list of noxious weeds, meaning they cannot be legally sold or cultivated in the state.

Ravenna grass, glossy buckthorn and common buckthorn are non-native plants that spread aggressively into wooded areas and fields, crowding out beneficial plants and disrupting native ecosystems.

The ban on sale and cultivation will take effect April 5, 2022 with enforcement phased in over the next year.

“Pennsylvania is working to repair the damage done by plants that were introduced to our landscape decades ago without foresight into how they might harm our environment and food supply,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Banning the sale of invasive plants and educating homeowners and consumers to plant native species today are both vital for protecting our environment, our food supply and our economy tomorrow.”

Property owners should consider eliminating these plants and seek native alternatives when choosing plants for landscaping.

Ravenna grass (Tripidium ravennae), also known as hardy pampas grass, is a six-foot tall, perennial, ornamental grass commonly sold in nurseries. Its seedy plumes allow it to spread rapidly, choking out native plants and reestablishing easily. The department will begin enforcing the ban on its commercial sale in September 2022. Find more information on ravenna grass and native alternatives on the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website, dcnr.pa.gov.

Glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus) is a small tree or shrub whose berries are eaten by birds, spreading the plant. It aggressively spreads in wetlands, choking out native plant and animal habitats. It has a commercially available cultivar called rhamnus fine line. The department  established an exemption procedure for breeders who own the rights to varieties that have been researched and proven sterile, and will consider exempting these varieties from the ban. The department will begin to enforce the ban on glossy buckthorn sale in 2023.

Common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) is a deciduous tree that reaches 22 feet high, with dark green leaves and berries. It forms dense thickets, choking out native ecosystems. It is not sold commercially.

Complete notice of the ban is published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Merchants with questions should contact ra-plant@pa.gov.

For more information about noxious weeds, controlled and poisonous plants in Pennsylvania  visit agriculture.pa.gov. For comprehensive information about controlling all invasive species in Pennsylvania, visit the Governor’s Invasive Species Council.

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