Pennsylvania garden centers, landscapers begin phasing out newly banned plants

The latest round of plants added to Pennsylvania’s noxious weeds list reads like a directory of popular landscaping options.

Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), callery or Bradford pear trees (Pyrus calleryana) and Ravenna grass (Saccharum ravennae; Tripidium ravennae) have been staples of urban and particularly suburban landscaping for decades. All three are invasive species whose seeds are readily spread by bird droppings. But the barberry is a particular problem for multiple reasons, according to plant biologists.

First, native animals do not browse it for food. That has made it very popular as a landscaping plant, but it also makes it that much easier for barberry to spread to new areas.

Second, its sharp spines make it an ideal hideout for the white-footed mouse, the main source of Lyme disease in Pennsylvania. Black-legged ticks also love the humid atmosphere inside the closely packed leaves of a barberry plant. And with plenty of white-footed mice to feed on, more ticks then acquire Lyme in the state that already ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for Lyme disease infections.

But even as the commercial sale of barberry and other entries on the noxious weeds list is being phased out — sales will be completely banned by 2023, according to state agriculture officials — local nurseries aren’t all that worried about lagging sales.

“Most people who want barberry really just want something colorful,” said Chris Wright, a horticulturalist at Plumline Nursery in Murrysville. “But it’s also easy to grow, and if that’s what people are looking for, there are lots of options like chokeberry and grow-low sumac. Those are tough-as-nails shrubs.” Master gardeners at the Penn State Extension suggested coralberry, inkberry holly, winterberry holly, Virginia sweetspire and Northern bayberry as substitutes for barberry shrubs.

Read the complete article at www.triblive.com.


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