While Adrian Higgins's July 14 Home article, "The Latest Export From China," presented the plant collector's view of horticultural trends, it failed to mention the downside of new species. Land managers struggle with the problems of invasive species, some of which were introduced as ornamental plants and later escaped from gardens into natural areas, becoming serious weed problems. Some well-known examples include Oriental bittersweet, wisteria and tree of heaven.
Representatives of the government, the horticulture industry, botanical gardens and environmental interests are mulling ways to control the import of new species into the United States. Higgins's implication that Agriculture Department regulations require cumbersome and unnecessary tests and quarantines of collectors and plant hunters is, from an environmental and land manager's position, not valid. Invasive diseases, pests, plants and animals cost the country $1.4 billion a year and degrade habitat for native wildlife.
We are aware that "new" sells, and that plants are as subject to the whims of fashion as any other discretionary purchase. But it is important when promoting the "new" that garden writers and nursery professionals bear in mind the risks associated with the introduction of plant species into new environments.
-- John Peter Thompson
The writer is president of the Mid-Atlantic Exotic Pest Plant Council and president and chairman of the board of Behnke Nurseries Co.