Controlled Plant & Noxious Weed Committee meeting

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The last meeting of 2022 for the Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Committee to take action on banning plants injurious to the health of our farmlands, waterways, forests, parks, and private lands takes place on October 20, 2022.  Here is the link to send your comments by email:   [email protected]    In the subject line, write “CPNWC Meeting Comments.” Comments will be accepted until October 19, the day before the meeting.

This time the committee is scheduled to vote on banning burning bush and four privet varieties, which as many of us know would be a huge benefit to protecting our native habitats.   Please let them know how important this vote is.  We also encourage you to ask them to keep to a 1-year phase-in period for the banned plants, as they have tended to extend this out to 2-3 years under pressure from the nursery industry. 

  • Burning bush escapes cultivation and spreads easily to natural areas, farm edges, and woodland properties, forcing out other species.  It competes with native vegetation in forests and fields, forming dense thickets.  Good native alternatives for fall color are Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), and aromatic sumac (Rhus aromatica).
    • Privets are another group of shrubs that escape cultivation and form dense thickets dominating the understory in forest edges, along streams, and on farm field edges.  It spreads by both seed and root suckers, quickly dominating areas where it takes hold. Alternatives: Any of the native viburnums, shrub dogwoods, and chokeberries (Aronia).
    • The presence of privethas been shownto decrease arbuscular mycorrhiza fungal associations with native plants, reducing biomass of native shrubs and overall native biomass. Repression of these beneficial fungi continued even after privet had been removed.
    • Both burning bush and privet prohibit regeneration and recruitment of native forest trees. Where regeneration has been suppressed, forests are replaced with fields of non-native shrubs once the present overstory trees die. This “arrested development” of the forest will have significant implications for our forests’ future in Pennsylvania.

In October, the committee will also be considering a group of the invasive honeysuckles for a possible vote in January.   Please encourage a ban on these prolific and smothering vines and shrubs.

We also want to encourage the committee to consider banning Norway Maple and Butterfly Bush at their January meeting.  

  • Norway maple facts to share:  The Norway Maple, producing prolific seeds, easily escapes into forests, parks, and natural areas from cultivation.   It’s growth habit, with dense canopy and shallow root system,  is such that is completely shades out the understory,  preventing native trees, shrubs, and understory plants  from emerging, altering our Pennsylvania forests in a negative way.  Alternatives: Red Maple, Sugar Maple
    • Butterfly bush (Buddleja) facts to share: This non-native ornamental has gained popularity for its colorful flower spikes, which are highly attractive to butterflies.  With over 40,000 seeds on a single flower spike, this shrub has been able to spread rapidly, taking over native fields, shrub, creeksides, and woodland habitats.  It does not provide habitat for butterfly caterpillars, as native flowering plants do, and its nectar has been found to have less nutritional content than native plants to provide necessary nectar for butterfly preparation for winter.  Alternatives for butterflies: summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), northern bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera), as well as native asters and goldenrods for late-season nectar.

The details of the meeting and how to submit a public comment are posted on the Department of Agriculture’s website close to the meeting date:

This time they should have the link to join the meeting on their website close to the date.

In your letter or email, write from your own experience battling any of these on your land, on conservation lands and public parks where you may volunteer, or what you’ve seen in your trips to natural areas, PA forests, and parks. 

  1. Mention your connection to the issue — a landowner, a professional landscaper, a conservationist, Audubon member, etc.
  2. This committee is geared toward agricultural interests, so mentioning farm fields in your comments may be helpful.

Sample brief email: (Please personalize and adapt!)

Dear Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Law Committee, thank you for your work protecting the health of our farm lands, woodlands, waterways, natural areas, and other properties.  I support a vote to ban burning bush and the privets, which have escaped cultivation and are overtaking the parks I enjoy visiting, as well as roadsides, farm fields, forest edges, and woodlands throughout my area.  In the future, I hope you will consider a ban on nonnative honeysuckles, Norway maple and butterfly bush varieties.  I encourage you to keep any phase- in period to 1 year at the most, for the plants you vote to ban. Thank you for your consideration of these concerns.  

Sincerely _____________________

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