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noxious weeds again (was Re: Eichhornia)


I can't speak for the weed control folks in California, but I can guess as
to a few reasons they may not be worrying about the water hyacinth. First,
water hyacinth may simply not be considered a threat in your area, and
therefore the control board does not focus on it or enforce regulations that
may or may not include it. It is usually up to each state (and in many
states, county by county) what is actively controlled and what is not.
Second, it may have a large enough loby amoung the public and/or nurseries
to tie up the regulatory controls to the point that it is not enforced. And
there is always the factor of human error. You may simply live in an area
where noxious weeds are not controlled with any regularity.

You have to remember that the noxious weed list is a REGULATORY tool, based
on what the USDA and the folks who are working with them think (and
hopefully generally can support with scientific data) is a real problem, AND
that they can actually control, or have a chance of controlling. This is a
highly political process, where plants that should be listed are excluded
because of some agriculatural interest, or in some cases because the plant
is so popular to the general public that trying to ban it would cause more
problems than it is worth. There are not so many examples in aquatic plants
as there are in terrestrial plants, so please forgive me if I illustrate
what I am saying with other plants.

Here in Western Washington (as well as in Western Oregon and I believe
Northern California), English Ivy is making itself as rampant a weed as
Kudzu is in the south. It may not grow quite as fast, but its effects on the
local forests is even more devastating, since it is shade tolerant and can
colonize even old growth forest. Unfortunately, up until 10 years ago, it
was one of the most commonly planted landscaping plants on the side of the
highway, and is still amoung the most popular plants as a groundcovers in
new developements and corporate plantings, despite the efforts of local
native plant groups to paint it with as eveil a picture as possible. Since
the nursery industry is literally making millions off this plant, the
chances of it ever getting on the noxious weed list are slim to none. Many
agricultural crops (clovers, pature grasses, fancy vegetables like mustards)
are also escaping, and these have even less chance of getting on the noxious
weed list, even when proven to be highly invasive in natural systems.

Another factor to consider is the impossibility of monitoring every plant on
the current lists. There are not only federal noxious weeds, but also state
and in some states county noxious weed lists. The lists themselves in most
states are also rated in different classes, some slated for control and
others not. Some plants are banned from commerce, others are not. It is a
very complicated process from start to finish. Here in King County, there is
a grand total of 6 people who work only in the summer months on weed
control, and this includes not only visiting nurseries and home owners who
have been reported to have noxious weeds, but also pulling weeds in known
colonies, investigating new reprots of weeds in parks and public areas,
educating people through talks and speaking engagements, etc. They often
have to deal with people who are very hostile to what they are doing, and I
imagine try to avoid that kind of confrontation when they can.

Add to that the highly regional nature of these lists (water hyacinth is a
huge problem in warm areas like Florida and presumably California, but since
it dies in cold winters is much less likely to be a problem in the northern
states) and you have a system that is very difficult to enforce equitably.
Many states have different lists in almost every county of what is being
enforced and what is not. Typically the weed control board for a county will
focus on a very short list of the worst weeds that are still controllable,
and do as much education as they can on those that are allready too
ubiquitous to effectively control.

One final consideration, the folks who put these lists together have
literally more plants to evaluate than they have time to evaluate them.
Therefore they tend to work with the plants they allready know are a
problem. Some states like Florida have more of a vested interest in aquatic
plants, but the ornamental pond trade is a relatively new phenomenon. The
plants being used are mostly things that have not been tried in most of the
country, and often there is little scientific evidence of how it will do in
different regions and climates. Exceptions like the hygro and hydrocotyle
are the ones that we are starting to see on the lists first.

I know many people on the list think this is an intrusion by 'Big Brother'
into things that are none of the government's business. Perhaps, but
invasive plants (and animals, for that matter) are a very real threat to the
natural history we tend to take for granted. Look at Hawaii, which is
undergoing major environmental changes, if not outright collapses of whole
ecosystems, largely due to invasive species (well, and loss of habitat, but
that is another argument). Here in the northwest the issues of noxious weeds
are being discussed in conjunction with questions of how to manage
endangered salmon, since several noxious weeds (including purple
loosestrife, millefoil, and Japanese knotweed) directly affect the quality
of the habitat in our streams and rivers where the salmon breed. Whether
these regulations can help close the barn door way after it has been wide
open, I don't know. But I do know I would rather not be the one who
introduced the next Purple Loosestife or Millefoil on our wetlands. If
government doesn't do this, who will? The alternative is to sit back and
watch as the world's ecosystems slowly homogenize into mostly weedy

Sorry for the very long message. I hope I didn't bore anyone too badly.

Brett Johnson
Green Man Gardens
bnbjohns at home_com
> ------------------------------
> Date: Thu, 23 Nov 2000 23:38:16 -0800 (PST)
> From: Thomas Barr <tcbiii at yahoo_com>
> Subject: Re: Eichhornia
> Soap box:
> The funny thing is that nurseries often sell water hythcinth(an
> extremely common Eichhornia species) yet no USDA folks are
> calling all the nurseries in CA to stop them in any way. They
> have free access and sales. Hell, this plant is the one that
> will get into the water ways and clog everything. Not the things
> we generally keep....(a few will though, don't dump them!~)I've
> seen more noxious weeds for sale than I care to elaborate on at
> these places. I like ponds very much, don't get me wrong. If
> your going to "look the other way" why not this small group of
> plant tank people as well? They tend to be a lesser risk at
> keeping things from getting into nature I would bet. Simply less
> of us as well.
> I find it quite peculiar that this plant is allowed and others
> like it to "pond gardeners" yet we are harassed (Orchard's and a
> many chain stores carry water H's). These plants have a higher
> probability/likelhood of getting loose.
> But the nurseries have other plants that are sold and are
> ornamentals and also noxious weeds yet they are sold freely.
> That part bugs me. If it's a commercially saleable plant, it
> doesn't matter if its a weed or not. The USDA wears two hats
> with their noxious weed program. Side note: 26F degrees is
> consider "fresh" for turkey & chicken sold in this state under
> the USDA. I guess they changed the physical constant of water.
> Such power......
> Happy Bird-day
> Regards,
> Tom Barr