Weedy bulbous plants

Michael Mace mikemace@att.net
Fri, 26 Nov 2010 21:25:07 PST

I wrote a message to the list last July summarizing the "whitelist"
situation in the US.  If you're new to this discussion, you might want to
check it out: 

A couple of thoughts...

I agree that the import regulations in the US are unreasonably eroding our
ability to practice our hobby.  

And I agree that bureaucracies tend to be, well, bureaucratic.

But in this particular case, I don't think we can put most of the blame for
the regulations on the bureaucrats.  The US Congress *ordered* the USDA to
put controls on potentially invasive plants.  It's written into a law.  The
USDA has moved slowly on implementing that law, and in many cases has tried
to modify it to minimize its impact on our hobby.  There have also been some
amazing behind the scenes cases in which a few involved people from the
gardening societies have worked with the USDA to prevent major mistakes (the
save that I'm aware of was the potential banning of the entire genus Moraea
from the US after Homeria was merged into Moraea).

The "bureaucrats" have been listening to us (when we've bothered to lobby
back) and have been trying to accommodate us.  But we're late to the party,
and in most cases we're getting outshouted.

The people pushing the whitelist in the US are the native plant societies,
some academics, and their allies like the Nature Conservancy.  They are very
well organized, and many of them are amazingly strident.  They are the one
who pushed through the original legislation requiring import restrictions,
and they've been lobbying the USDA (and threatening lawsuits) trying to
enact the most restrictive regulations possible.

I do think we should be very careful about what we label a weed, but I don't
think we need to worry too much about our wiki being used as a source for
banning plants.  Unfortunately, the whitelist regulations as they were being
structured the last time I checked would rely on peer-reviewed scientific
articles to evaluate invasiveness.  That sounds like a good approach, but
some of those peer-reviewed articles make scientific guesses at invasiveness
by looking at factors like the native climate of a bulb and how many seeds
if it sets.  So if it grows in a climate similar to some part of the US, and
if it sets a lot of seeds, it could be assumed to be invasive even if all of
us testify that in reality it isn't.

On the other hand, if a species is shown to already be present in the US, it
will be exempted from the whitelist.  So I think one of the most useful
things we can do on the wiki is document what we're already growing here.

If you live in the US and don't like the regulations, tell your
congressperson, and participate in the public comment opportunities when new
regulations are proposed.  And if you belong to a native plant society, tell
it to back off.
If you don't bother to do these things, then look in a mirror before you
blame anybody else for the new regulations.

San Jose, CA

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