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PlantRight Takes Time Out on Survey in 2018

A volunteer looks for invasive plants being sold as part of PlantRight's Spring Nursery Survey. (Photo credit: PlantRight)
The UC Master Gardener Program and its volunteers have been a key partner in PlantRight's annual Spring Nursery Survey  since its inception in 2010. Last year marked the 8th year of the Survey, and thanks to UC Master Gardener volunteers, it was a huge success!

2017 by the numbers:

  • 172 volunteers
  • 332 garden centers
  • 45 counties

According to PlantRight's Spring Nursery Survey Fact Sheet, the rate of nurseries selling invasive plants continues to decline. In 2014, 44% of nurseries surveyed were selling locally invasive plants; this rate dropped to 35% in 2015, to 31% in 2016, and 29% in 2017. 

Of the nurseries that were selling any invasive plants in 2017, only 8% had more than one species of invasive plant for sale. This is down from 2016, when 10% of stores (that sold any invasive plants) had more than one invasive plant for sale.

Mexican feathergrass (Stipa tenuissima) was a wildly popular invasive plant being sold in nurseries across Calif. (Photo credit: PlantRight).

No Spring Nursery Survey in 2018

PlantRight will not be conducting the Spring Nursery Survey in 2018. This one year break from the survey allows PlantRight to make a more concerted statewide outreach effort to landscape professionals (e.g. architects, designers and contractors), and the most influential water districts promoting sustainable landscaping.

Successfully engaging these professionals and districts will accelerate PlantRight's work to keep invasive plants off California wildlands and promote climate appropriate alternatives. That's because these groups have significant influence on the nursery supply chain -- what horticultural growers grow, what plants get specified in landscape design, and the plant material that contractors source. Engaging water districts is a cost effective way to educate members of the gardening public, especially those interested in replacing thirsty lawns with lovely looking, climate appropriate landscape plants.

PlantRight provides alternative options to invasive plants like Highway iceplant(Carpobrotus edulis) - pictured here. (Photo credit: PlantRight)

Survey Pause is No Pause in Planting Right

This pause in surveying is in no way a pause in planting right. PlantRight.org remains a trusted resource for UC Master Gardener volunteers. Engage with PlantRight on social media, including: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. Let PlantRight know about any good works or upcoming events so that it can share your news and announcements on social media or in its email newsletter. You can support PlantRight's Retail Nursery Partners by shopping at their stores.

Volunteers interested in learning more about invasive ornamental plants in California can still earn continuing education hours by completing PlantRight's Continuing Education Program. The online format makes it easy for anyone with an account to participate. After completing the curriculum, participants can pass a 12-question quiz and earn a certificate of achievement.

PlantRight is committed to being UC Master Gardener volunteer's go-to resource for science-based information about horticultural invasive plants. UC Master Gardener volunteers and coordinators can contact PlantRight anytime with questions, PlantRight@suscon.org

Questions? Contact:
Stephanie Falzone
PlantRight Project Manager
Email: sfalzone@suscon.org
Phone: (415) 977-0380 ext. 350

Posted on Thursday, February 1, 2018 at 8:46 AM
  • Author: Stephanie Falzone, PlantRight Project Manager
Tags: PlantRight (5)
Focus Area Tags: Yard & Garden

With PlantRight, You Too Can Prevent the Sale of Invasive Plants

It's that time of year again. Soon, over 150 UC Master Gardener volunteers will head to plant nurseries throughout the state with clipboards, cameras, and data sheets in hand. In this 8th year of the survey, they will be searching for invasive ornamental plants. But why?

The nursery survey is how PlantRight measures what is happening in California's retail nursery industry, and none of it would happen without the survey volunteers. In 2016, 175 volunteers (many of them UC Master Gardener volunteers) were trained by PlantRight to survey for invasive plants at retail locations throughout the state. If approved by your county, hours spent participating in the survey can count towards certification volunteer hour requirements. Check with your local county program coordinator. 

Survey volunteer Mary Ann Saylards recording an occurrence of pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) at a nursery.

Interested in participating? 

  • Learn more about the survey and results from past surveys. 
  • Register to receive updates about the survey and gain access to the online training.
  • View either a refresher video for returning volunteers orawebinar for new volunteers that discusses invasive plants, how to conduct the survey, and includes a guest speaker each year.
    • The survey starts earlier in Southern California (San Luis Obispo, Kern, San Bernardino counties and south) than it does in north of those counties.
    • Southern California: Nurseries are available to claim and the survey begins on February 27th, going through May.
    • Northern California: Nurseries are available to claim and the survey begins on April 3rd, going until June 20th.
    • This year's webinar includes an Introduction to the Watershed Approach to Landscaping by Pamela Berstler from G3: Green Gardens Group. 
  • Take a short quiz to demonstrate your newfound knowledge. 
  • Access to survey materials and claim your survey store (or multiple stores. 
  • Visit the store/s and record information about any invasive plants or candidate plants being sold. 
  • Submit information to PlantRight

Why is the survey important?

The information volunteers gather is vital to PlantRight for three main purposes:

1. Tracking the sale of invasive plants currently on the plant list, and retiring those that have been largely phased out of retail.

Scotch broom (Cystisus scoparius), a familiar sight in California wildlands. It has invaded at least 23 counties in California and can produce up to 12,000 seeds per plant, making it difficult to control once established. Photo by Joe DiTomaso.
The first PlantRight invasive plant list was developed using the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC) Inventory as a starting point and included 19 plants, focusing on the highest priority invasive plants still sold in garden centers.

To keep the list relevant, as plants from the original list are no longer sold, they are “retired.” To retire a plant, it must be found at less than 1% of nurseries surveyed for 3 years in a row. This doesn't mean that they are gone from our landscapes. Plants like Scotch broom (Cystisus scoparius) and arundo (Arundo donax) have already invaded wildlands in California, and there's still much work to be done to control their spread. Since the invasive plant list was first published in 2006, 15 plants have been retired, which is excellent progress. You can help with these retired plants by removing them if they are on your property or volunteering with groups that remove invasive plants.

There are 7 plants currently on PlantRight's list of invasive plantsThe 2016 survey results for these 7 plants can be found in the Fact Sheet and Full ReportFour of these plants were part of the original list of 19: green fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum),pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana)highway iceplant (Carpobrotus edulis), and big-leaf periwinkle (Vinca major)

Three plants were added in 2014Mexican feathergrass (Stipa/Nassella tenuissima)yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus), and water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes).  

2. Helping PlantRight determine whether or not to add candidate plants to the plant list.

In late 2012, PlantRight recruited several horticultural experts (all volunteers, from diverse sectors of industry, academia and conservation) to establish their Plant List Committee. These individuals engage in the complex, involved, and time-intensive process of working with PlantRight to decide which surveyed plants to add to the invasive plant list and which non-invasive alternatives to suggest. Each fall, PlantRight solicits input from the Plant List Committee and an extended network of experts to see what plants might be hopping the garden fence and escaping into wildlands. 

Rows of Mexican feathergrass (Stipa/Nassella tenuissima) at a nursery. While green during the wetter part of the year, this grass will turn golden brown at the top as its seeds ripen — its many, many seeds. Each plant can produce thousands of seeds, which are dispersed by wind, water, contaminated soil, automobiles, and animals. Photo by Jan Tilford.

To appear on PlantRight's invasive list, a plant must meet the following criteria:

  1. When evaluated by PlantRight's Plant Risk Evaluator (PRE), it rates as being “high risk” or is on the Cal-IPC Inventory
  2. It is found in 3% or more retailers surveyed in the annual Spring Nursery Survey
  3. Its invasive range is large enough to warrant action, and its inclusion is supported by both the Plant List Committee and Steering Committee

There's one more way PlantRight uses the survey information – helping use their energy and time strategically.

3. Informing industry outreach strategy with information about sales in different regions and store types.

On the left, green fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum), one of the original 19 plants that is still on the plant list. Pennisetum setaceum was found at only 3.7% of nurseries in 2016 as sales continue to decline from 2012, when it was found at 7.7% of nurseries surveyed. Photo by Bobbie Wright.
PlantRight has worked across the nursery supply chain to raise awareness about invasive plant issues and benefits of planting right. In recent years they been recruiting retail nursery partners. These partners commit to sell exclusively non-invasive plants — you won't find any plants on our plant list at a retail nursery partner's store. Knowing who is selling invasive plants and in what regions of the state helps focus their efforts where they will have the greatest impact.

Get an exclusive look at the results of this year's survey (before they go online) by attending the 2017 UC Master Gardener Conference in Long Beach on August 22-25, where PlantRight will be giving a presentation and celebrating the participation of UC Master Gardener volunteers in this effort. 

Can't participate in the survey?

You can still help by sharing what you've just read, sharing the Plant List or Mexican feathergrass species spotlight, shopping at PlantRight retail partner locations, and educating your friends and neighbors. You can also participate in their Continuing Education program if you would like to expand your knowledge about invasive garden plants in California. You are welcome to still watch the webinar if you can't participate in the survey. A recording of each webinar will be shared on the PlantRight YouTube channel immediately after it concludes.

Learn more about PlantRight at www.PlantRight.org. Stay up on the latest from PlantRight on Facebook and Twitter, and InstagramHave a question? Contact us at PlantRight@suscon.org.

Note: this blog post is an updated and abridged version of Where invasive plants are sold in California – and how we know, which was shared by PlantRight in October 2016 and summarized the results of the 2016 survey and plant list update process. 

Posted on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 11:53 AM
  • Author: Stephanie Falzone
Tags: PlantRight (5), Spring Survey (2)

Little Less Conversation, Little More Action (Please)

I saw Elvis today. 

Actually, he's quite the regular at Sustainable Conservation's San Francisco headquarters these days. More than a titan among musical icons “The King” has become a muse to the PlantRight team, especially this National Invasive Species Awareness Week . We love Elvis' “A Little Less Conversation” because it might as well be our theme song for actionable awareness. We can't guarantee you'll be dancing along by the end of this article, but we do guarantee providing you with a few awareness-raising resources, a deeper understanding of what's holding back the hold-outs from taking positive action, and most importantly what we can do about it.

PlantRight defines “actionable awareness” as what happens when individuals and businesses are made aware of an opportunity to be part of the solution to California's costly (economically and environmentally) invasive garden plant problem, and make a conscious decision to act.  Invasive plants (despite the fact that many are deceptively beautiful and drought resistant) outcompete native plants, alter soil chemistry, increase wildfire risk, clog our waterways and can severely compromise agricultural yields and real estate value. If that weren't enough, invasive species are the second greatest threat to biodiversity after human development.

Awareness of these facts alone will not fix any of these issues; however, add action to the mix and you have a proven formula for problem solving.  PlantRight's idea of problem solving is collaborating with the industry to voluntarily phase invasive plants out of the supply chain and replace them with high-quality (i.e. non-invasive) plants. Voila! Together we prevent new invasive garden plants from wreaking havoc on our wild lands and taxpayer wallets.

Invasive species are second greatest threat to biodiversity after guess who …?
A Little Less Conversation, a Little More Action Please

The fact that 50% of California's invasive plants are of horticultural origin (Bell et al. 2007) is a source of both conversation and dismay.  Yet from PlantRight's perspective this 50% is a great source of optimism because it's proof of a huge opportunity the nursery industry can play in preventing future invasive plant introductions. In past decades ornamental plant breeders and growers had little or no ability to predict a plant's invasive risk in a given region, and most invasions were well-intentioned accidents.  Lucky for us we finally have science-based plant risk evaluation tools to prevent new invasive plant introductions.   Not so lucky for us is that popular plants travel, and a delightful Dr. Jekyll plant in one region, may become a hideous Mr. Hyde plant and landscape transformer in a different region. It's about the right plant in the right place, but just where to begin, if we're to turn this talk into actionable awareness?

In the beginning there was lots of conversation and lots of listening sessions that Sustainable Conservation conducted with a diverse group of nursery industry stakeholders, from large ornamental growers, retail nurseries, plant scientists, trade associations and government agencies. University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) has been part of this group from the start, providing academic expertise on weeds and calculating their risk. This group's official moniker is “California Horticultural Invasive Prevention,” but we prefer Cal-HIP.

With a couple years of listening and learning under our belts, and funding from Sustainable Conservation, the PlantRight program was ready for action: action   engaging the nursery industry in voluntarily phasing our invasive ornamental plants and promoting, in their place, non-invasive alternatives.

Our first order of business was to measure the scope of the problem and establish a baseline. Working closely with plant science experts to identify the most problematic invasive ornamental plants, and industry experts to identify non-invasive alternatives, we created our first PlantRight plant list. If you can measure it you can manage it, we like to say - to do this, we rely on an annual Spring Nursery Survey. Each spring, partner with UC Master Gardener volunteers to survey more than 200 nurseries and garden centers around the state, and in the process track the retail market for invasive garden plants in California.

Along with informing PlantRight's program strategy, the annual survey allows us to keep PlantRight's plant list manageable and up to date – we add new invaders and retire those that are largely phased out of the trade.  It is our program's calling card, and the starting point for conversations with prospective partners and skeptics, alike.  It has earned the enthusiastic support of California Certified Nursery Professionals (CCNPro), SaveOurWater, and more.

A Little Less Fight, a Little More Spark

Buying non-invasive means many things, including protecting native species, being good stewards of our beautiful open spaces and waterways, being fiscally responsible and preventing additional taxpayer dollars going to avoidable invasive plant eradication efforts.  Buying non-invasive plants is casting a vote for the kind of world you want to live in.

So, why on earth do people buy invasive plants in the first place? (Hint: One big reason has to do with what happens when you turn off the lights). Yep, people who purchased invasive plants were in the dark – they did not know. 

In 2013, we learned that the primary drivers behind consumer purchases of invasive plants are: 1) aesthetics – it looks good; and, 2) there was no information on the plant indicating “invasive.”  In other words the majority of invasive plant purchases (by consumers) are impulse purchases and would not have occurred had the plant been properly identified as “invasive.”

Photo credit: Susan Morrison
Nan Sterman, award winning garden writer and host of PBS' “A Growing Passion,” has her own answer to this vexing invasive plant question.  “It's about visual influence,” says Sterman.  “People tend to buy and plant what they see in their local gardens and landscapes. “ According to Sterman, these include the very people who religiously recycle, buy high-efficiency appliances, and drive electric cars, yet they can't imagine beautiful, drought tolerant plants posing environmental problems.  Nassella tenuissima, or Mexican feathergrass, is one such culprit that has been romancing many well-intentioned Californians.

Come On, Come On…Come On, Come On

Ready to channel your inner Elvis and tackle invasive garden plant problems in ways that make economic sense?  (Of course you are!)  Here are a few resources to empower more action in your community.

So this National Invasive Species Awareness Week we encourage you to crank up that volume and bust a move with the PlantRight community (blue suede shoes optional), knowing that YOU are driving actionable awareness…this week, this month and in the years ahead.

Thank you, thankyouverymuch.

Posted on Wednesday, February 24, 2016 at 1:40 PM
  • Author: Jan Merryweather, PlantRight
Tags: Invasive (2), Invasives (1), Pests (6), PlantRight (5), Plants (1)

Help Stop Invasive Garden Plants from Overrunning California's Landscapes!

Green fountain grass - Photo Credit: Ritu Goswamy
This spring, PlantRight is conducting its 6th Annual Spring Nursery Survey! UC Master Gardener volunteers can help PlantRight track the availability of invasive plants by simply visiting local nurseries. Check with your local county program coordinator to find out if your program offers volunteer hours for participation.

Participation in the 2015 Spring Nursery Survey is easy, educational, and fun! Volunteers will:

  1. View an online training
  2. Download required survey materials (e.g. survey form & plant ID key)
  3. Sign up to survey a randomly selected store in their county
  4. Visit the store and record information about any invasive plants being sold
  5. Submit information to PlantRight

Highway iceplant - Photo Credit: Carol Pancner
The survey process takes approximately 2.5 hours to complete and can be done with other volunteers - if approved by your county these hours can count towards certification volunteer hour requirements. Returning volunteers may view the full training or a shorter refresher video.

PlantRight will host two training webinars to reflect different survey periods for Southern California (San Luis Obispo, Kern San Bernardino Counties and south) and Northern California: 

Southern California Webinar:
Monday, February 23rd, from 7:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Northern California Webinar:
Wednesday, April 15th, from 7:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Sign up at: www.plantright.org/survey-registration

 

“2014 saw many common invasive plants decline in availability, yet some are more popular than ever. Help us prevent the next big invasive by making the 2015 survey our most successful yet!” –Chris Crawford, PlantRight Survey Manager


2014 Survey Highlights

Mexican feathergrass - Photo Credit: Christine Weber
Thanks to the dedication of more than 120 UC Master Gardener volunteers last spring, PlantRight's 2014 survey was a huge success. Drawing from data collected at 226 stores in 35 counties across the state, PlantRight saw a decline in the availability of invasive plants from their original list, from around 30% in past years to 19% of stores surveyed.

Driving this positive change was a large decrease in periwinkle (Vinca major), dropping from 17% in past years to 9% of surveyed stores. However, the number of stores selling the most recently added invasive plants on PlantRight's list (updated in early 2014) increased. Notably, the drought-tolerant emerging invasive Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima) increased in prevalence from 27% in 2013 to 38% in 2014.

A comprehensive report and simplified fact sheet detailing the results can be found on the Spring Retail Nursery Survey – 2014 Fact Sheet. These results act as PlantRight's guiding light, shaping its strategy and helping it move forward collaboratively with the nursery industry.

2015 New Plant List

After a year-long review, PlantRight is very excited to share its brand new 2015 list of Suggested Alternatives for Invasive Garden Plants. This list identifies the top ten priority invasive plants for sale in California and provides recommendations on beautiful alternatives. Without the help of the UC Master Gardeners and the data collected from the annual spring survey, the new and improved list would not have been possible.

We are proud of what we've accomplished together with the UC Master Gardener Program, and look forward to working together again in 2015!

-- For questions, contact Chris Crawford, PlantRight Survey Manager, at ccrawford@suscon.org or (415) 977-0380, ext. 331.

 

Posted on Tuesday, February 3, 2015 at 1:03 PM

Mexican Feather Grass: Invasive Beauty can be Deceiving

 

 

Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella or Stipa tenuissima) is a wildly popular ornamental grass used by home gardeners and landscape design professionals. Mexican Feather Grass is loved for its graceful, delicate and fine texture – it grows out in a cascade like a beautiful fountain. Plus it is extremely drought tolerant adding to its allure. It's no wonder this ornamental grass has been enthusiastically used in home landscapes. But - don't be fooled by this invasive beauty!

Mexican Feather Grass (Nasella or Stipa tenuissima) is popular in home landscapes because of its drought tolerance.
Mexican Feather Grass Named Invasive

Mexican Feather Grass was recently added to PlantRight's list of invasive plants in California. It produces tens of thousands of seeds, which are dispersed by wind, water or contaminated soil – as well as via automobiles and animal droppings. The seed-bank can persist for more than four years and the plant commonly self-sows in California. Mexican feather grass is capable of overcoming native plants and animal species once it becomes established.

It crowds out pasture grass species as well as native grasses in coastal areas and is found in all landscapes, including: urban spaces, agricultural areas, forests, open grasslands, riparian zones, disturbed land, and shrublands.

Working to Stop Distribution

PlantRight works with leaders in the nursery industry, conservation groups, plant scientists and professional landscapers to find cost-effective ways to stop the sale of invasive plants and Mexican feather grass is at the top of their list. PlantRight is currently working with one of the top growers of Mexican feather grass to stop the sale of 14,000 plants that are ready to ship to retailers. These 14,000 plants are capable of producing more than 980 million seeds each year. 

PlantRight Recommended Alternatives:

To learn more about Plant Right and how they are working to stop the distribution of Mexican feather grass, visit www.plantright.org
  

 

Posted on Monday, June 30, 2014 at 8:37 AM
 
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