Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council

HALTING THE INVASION: AN INDUSTRY POINT OF VIEW. Merrill Varn, Invasive Plant Task Force, Georgia Green Industry Association, P.O. Box 369, Epworth, GA 30541, (


A Florida study overseen by Allison Fox, suggests that almost one half of all invasive plants were initially horticultural introductions; an additional 22 percent are suspect. Yes, the horticulture industry, nationwide, is concerned about this statistic; however this concern has taken different forms in different states. The Georgia Green Industry Association formed an Invasive Plant Task Force in 2003.

The first year, we decided the critical issue was to discern whether or not exotics were actually displacing native species in holdings managed as natural areas. We mailed 400 surveys to a variety of natural areas; 31 percent were completed and returned. Table 1 summarizes the data. Of the plants listed among the Georgia EPPC top ten invasives, all were considered a serious problem in at least one natural area. Chinese Privet, Kudzu and Japanese Honeysuckle were considered moderate to severe problems by 25 - 30 percent of respondents. Autumn Olive, Chinese Wisteria and Mimosa, though present in a large number of sites, were considered moderate to severe problems in very few. Chinese Tallow, Nepalese Browntop and Golden Bamboo were not familiar to a large number of respondents and were absent from many of the areas managed by people who did recognize the plants. Looking more closely at the data it was obvious that these species were concentrated in specific regions of the state - Chinese Tallow in the southeastern corner of the state, Nepalese Browntop in central Georgia and Golden Bamboo in the upper central portion of the state. Hydrilla is a water plant and the fact that it was absent from 66 percent of the areas may only mean there was no water at these survey sites. Hydrilla also appears to be concentrated in coastal plains.

During 2004, the task force worked on a list of invasive exotics available in the horticulture industry. Table 2 is our most recent draft. Also included on Table 2 is a recent list of exotic and native alternatives. We reviewed programs and legislation in other states and worked with Georgia Department of Agriculture to see what sorts of alternatives are available via permits, bonding and monitoring. We began collecting economic impact data for selected Category I species, and finally we began working with plant introduction specialists in the state to figure out effective best management practices. We plan to continue the above work during the summer of 2005 and look to you for input on priorities.

We in the green industry are concerned about invasive plants. Our task force feels that because of current regulations and funding, it will be the consumer who cures the problem of new introductions. In a survey done by Reichard and White, 98 percent of respondents said they would not buy a species/cultivar if they knew it was invasive. That says that consumer education is a critical issue. We understand that consumers include both commercial and residential customers and industry representatives probably have more efficient access to commercial customers. Regulation by the state at the production level is not a viable solution because invasives can simply be ordered from out of state. The Department of Agriculture says that regulation of plant production and sales is impossible at current departmental staff and funding levels.

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