Today's post is a story about community action, complete with a happy ending.
I'm a new homeowner (four years this month) and as such I've been making various attempts at landscaping. Mostly this involves removal of invasive species (and some native weeds), but I have also been making some attempts to add new plants to the yard - always something native or non-invasive, of course. I've already made enough purchases to get on the mailing list of pretty much every major gardening catalog and website there is.
Late last year I received an email from Gurney's Seed and Nursery Co. touting the benefits of ornamental shrubs. When I clicked through to the website I ended up on a page selling dwarf burning bush (Euonymus alatus var. compacta). It always annoys me to see invasive plants being given the hard sell to the gardening public. But now, things are different: in 2006 the state of Massachusetts enacted a ban on over 100 different invasive plants. Burning bush is on that list, with an importation ban as of Jan. 2006, and a propagation ban that goes into effect Jan. 2009. The ban does cover cultivars of invasive plants, and Gurney's is importing plants into Massachusetts from out of state, which means Massachusetts should have been on the list of states Gurney's cannot ship this species to...but they weren't:
So I did what any concerned citizen would do - I emailed Gurney's and asked them why Massachusetts wasn't on their "unable to ship to" list. The response from Customer Service was pretty straightforward: "...At this time, burning bushes are not restricted for spring delivery to MA..."
Problem with that response was that it was wrong. I contacted the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources to check, and also mentioned that Gurney's was selling Norway maple (Acer platanoides) and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), both currently banned in Massachusetts. The MDAR verified that import of these species was indeed prohibited, and promised to contact Gurney's. After a few back-and-forths, this was the result:
As of late January 2007, Massachusetts was added to Gurney's "unable to ship to" list for burning bush, Norway maple, and Japanese barberry, and also to some other catalog storefronts (Spring Hill and Audubon Workshop, at least - they all seem to be owned by the same company). I even tried putting the plant in my shopping cart and when I filled out the "Ship To" section as Massachusetts it bounced me back out. Even better, some time between January and today (when I finally got around to getting a screen grab and completing this post), someone in New Hampshire apparently did the same thing, because NH is now on the "unable to ship to" list too!
Sure, seeing positive effects from a small action like a few emails feels good. But wouldn't it be better if there were a system in place where sellers of plants could easily keep up to date about the changes in prohibited plants? Rules are only going to get more restrictive (and more complicated!) as more and more official invasive plant lists are implemented at the state level...never mind the county and town-based regulations. In the meantime, I am happy this was resolved and I even purchased many of my vegetable seeds from Gurney's this year. Also, Audubon Workshop seems to have a nice selection of native Northeast U.S. shrubs in their mix this season.