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Connecticut nurseries to phase out 25 barberry cultivars

By Garden Center Magazine (8/30/10)

  SEPTEMBER 4, 2010 --

Connecticut's nursery and landscape industry will voluntarily start phasing out the sale and production of 25 Japanese barberry cultivars over the next three years because of their invasive potential (July 1, 2010-June 30, 2013).

The barberry plant (Berberis thunbergii) is one of the top 25 most popular landscape plants in the state. The Connecticut Nursery & Landscape Association (CNLA) estimates the combined value of these cultivars -- wholesale and retail -- exceeds $7 million annually.

The decision will leave in sale and production at least another 18 versions of the plant considered much less invasive. Those cultivars are in the bottom 10% of seed and fruit production of all barberry varieties currently being sold in the state.

 "Barberry continues to be in demand because it offers that contrasting color throughout the spring-summer-fall season in an otherwise monotonous green landscape, and it holds up well in most gardens," said CNLA executive director Bob Heffernan.

CNLA gave details of the new industry-decided plan in a June 8 presentation before the nine-member Connecticut Invasive Plants Council, which then voted unanimously to endorse it.

It was the culmination of a long journey from 10 years ago when the state legislature was considering banning entire species of plants--including barberry--without first considering whether there could be cultivars within a plant species that might not be as invasive as the parent species plant, in this case, the green barberry that has invaded the Connecticut environment.

It took seven years of research, which is still ongoing, at UConn's College of Agriculture to lay out for Connecticut's nursery growers just how "invasive" the different cultivars of barberry really are. Dr. Mark Brand and his team at UConn have spearheaded this research.

Of the 50 states, Connecticut has banned the most invasive plants -- 80 in total. Connecticut's green industry has always favored public education and self-regulation over government bans.

The floral-nursery-greenhouse-landscape industry in Connecticut is more than half of all of agriculture in the state, with $1 billion in annual sales, 48,000 employees, 3,300 companies, 46,000 acres of land, operating in all 169 towns.


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