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Gardeners sound the alarm about unwanted guests lurking in your local plant nursery: 'Should be heavily regulated'

"Always do your research …"

"Always do your research ..."

Photo Credit: iStock

A new study has revealed how commercial nurseries are contributing to the spread of non-native, invasive plant species in the eastern United States.

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst conducted a case study of 672 nurseries that sell a total of 89 invasive plant species and found that these nurseries could be responsible for 80% of those species' becoming invasive.

With gardeners coming from far and wide to buy plants from nurseries, the spread of the invasive plants could be extensive and go relatively unchecked.

"When people think of how invasive plant species spread, they might assume species are moving because of birds or the wind dispersing seeds," postdoctoral researcher and study lead author Evelyn M. Beaury said, per Phys.org. "But commercial nurseries that sell hundreds of different invasives are actually the primary pathway of invasive plant introduction."

The study also investigated the effects of a 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) rise in temperatures on invasive plants.

Through modeling, the researchers discovered that most of the 144 plants studied would shift the ranges at which they can thrive by an average of 213 kilometers (132 miles). Indeed, in some states that are unsuitable for plant species to survive, such a change in temperature — encouraged by the impact of global heating — will provide ideal conditions for 21 of these species to become invasive. 

While that's a problematic discovery, the research also detailed that 62% of abundant invasive species' habitats will decrease with a warmer climate.

It's hoped the research will provide useful information for invasive species managers to keep these plants from growing out of control. Maps have also been produced that show the areas most susceptible to an invasion.

"Always do your research ..."
Image Credit: Phys.org

The study provides further reason for gardeners to do their research before choosing plants.

English ivy, for example, might seem attractive, but it could soon grow out of control and significantly harm the local ecosystem. 

"The 'traditional' nursery trade in the US (and probably overseas) is a capitalist nightmare for the environment [in my opinion]," one Redditor said about the study's findings. "It's a terrible thing that should be heavily regulated in my opinion."

"Don't assume that, because the garden center is selling it, it must not be invasive," another added. "Always do your research before planting anything."

Planting native plants can help avoid these issues, and they should also be better equipped to withstand the weather and soil conditions in your area. 

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