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Government Affairs: Northeastern states ratchet up their regulation of invasive plants

March 1, 2016 -  By

Two recent actions by Pennsylvania and Maryland are tightening controls on invasive plants in those states. Five other states in the Northeastern U.S. have laws and regulations that ban certain plant species that have been deemed invasive: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.


The Maryland Department of Agriculture published a regulation on February 5 (see page 284) that would create two tiers of banned and regulated invasive plants. The first tier of regulated plants would pose such a significant environmental risk that they would be banned completely from the trade.

The second tier of regulated plants would pose a lesser environmental risk, but would be allowed in the trade only if the plants were accompanied by a warning label or sign at the point of sale. Landscape contractors would be required to advise their clients in writing if a landscape plan they were proposing included any of the second tier plants.

Tier one plants that were identified in the regulation are:

  • Ficaria verna (fig buttercup);
  • Geranium lucidum (shining cranesbill); and
  • Iris pseudacorus (yellow flag iris).

Yellow flag iris is the only of these plants commonly seen in the trade.

Tier two plants identified in the regulation are:

  • Euonymus alatus (burning bush);
  • Ligustrum obtusifolium (blunt-leaved or border privet);
  • Wisteria sinensis (Chinese wisteria);
  • Wisteria floribunda (Japanese wisteria); and
  • Wisteria x formosa (floribunda x sinensis hybrids).

All the Tier 2 plants are commonly found in the trade.

The regulation is open for comment until March 7, 2016. Comments should be directed to Carol Holko, assistant secretary, Maryland Department of Agriculture, 50 Harry Truman Parkway, Annapolis, Maryland 21401, or call 410-841-5870, or email to


In Pennsylvania, the Department of Agriculture has proposed a new law that would create a new Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Committee to regulate plants with undesirable characteristics and tendencies. Pennsylvania’s new law is an expansion of the noxious weed control authority that it now has.

The proposed law, Pennsylvania SB 1110, would create two types of regulated plants: noxious weeds and controlled plants. The Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Committee would have the ability to classify plants into one category or the other. Noxious weeds would be banned completely or very closely regulated and controlled plants would be allowed to be grown under a permit issued by the department.

The Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association (PLNA) worked closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in drafting the proposed law, going through some six drafts over three years before arriving at the current bill language. The green industry will have a voting representative on the Controlled Plant Committee.

If you would like to comment on SB 1110, direct your thoughts to Senator David Argall, Senate Box 203029, Harrisburg, PA 17120-3029 or call 717-787-2637. There is no established deadline, but sooner is better than later.

For more information on invasive plant laws and regulations that can affect your business, see “Invasion of the plant regulators” from January 2014.

About the Author:

Gregg Robertson, Landscape Management's government relations blogger, is a government relations consultant for the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association (PLNA) and president of Conewago Ventures. From 2002 until May 2013 he served as president of PLNA. Reach him at

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