Growers as allies

Michael Mace
Fri, 09 Sep 2011 21:24:16 PDT
The discussion of saving endangered plants has been fascinating, and I'm
especially grateful that folks have kept it respectful despite strong
feelings.  I'm learning a lot.

One theme in the discussion is that many growers (both individuals and
nursery professionals) want to participate in the mission of preserving
biodiversity, and are frustrated because they're treated as part of the
problem rather than part of the solution.  I feel that way too.

I've been running into a similar situation with the pending invasive species
regulations in the US.  The new restrictions on plant imports that the US is
putting into place are based on the assumption that there is a large supply
of attractive ornamental plants outside the US that, if imported, could
become an invasive threat.  There's a lot of focus on protecting the borders
against this threat by placing import bans on plants that have been reported
invasive elsewhere in the world.

However, the first set of species proposed for the ban last month ended up
showing a very different situation.  *Every one* of the ornamental species
proposed for a ban turns out to already be present in the US; the government
just wasn't aware of it.  And not just present -- in most cases the species
have been here for more than a century, distributed through nurseries and
seed exchanges, written up in books and magazines.  The US government was
just looking at the wrong info sources.

So there's a lesson here for the record-keepers in the federal government.
I've communicated with them about it, and the dialog has been very positive
(thanks to Bill Aley for setting that up).

But I think there's a deeper lesson that we all need to absorb: Any plant
species that's attractive enough that someone introduced it into Australia
or the UK or some other part of Europe is also attractive enough that people
have brought it into the US, repeatedly and enthusiastically, for many

So at least in the US, the issue isn't really about guarding the borders;
it's mostly about assessing the invasiveness of things already here, making
sure they are grown responsibly, and flagging the genuinely dangerous ones
for other forms of regulation.

Who is best suited to make those assessments and watch for invasiveness?
Can the botanical gardens do it?  (Boyce, do you have time to police the
gardeners of Illinois?)  Can the regulators do it?  (Keep in mind, they
don't even know what's being grown in the US.)  Everybody can help, of
course, but I think the people who can do the most to evaluate invasiveness
are those who deal with the plants on a daily basis, the growers.

So I think the situation in plant species preservation and invasive plant
control is similar: in both cases, the most effective programs will embrace
growers as allies and participants.

I am trying to make this point to some folks the US government, and so far
they are surprisingly responsive.  If you'd like to participate in that
dialog, please contact me privately.


San Jose, CA

More information about the pbs mailing list