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Reminder to gardeners

Some exotic plants banned in Illinois

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[APRIL 24, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- As the spring gardening season begins, Illinois homeowners, landscapers and plant sellers are reminded that a number of exotic plant species are prohibited in Illinois due to the potential damage the banned plants can do to native plants and habitats in the state.

The Illinois Exotic Weed Act prohibits the purchase, sale, offer to sell, distribution or planting of Japanese honeysuckle, multiflora rose, purple loosestrife, kudzu and six species of buckthorn: common buckthorn, glossy buckthorn, saw-toothed buckthorn, dahurian buckthorn, Japanese buckthorn and Chinese buckthorn.

"These prohibited plants present a real danger to everything from the beauty of a backyard garden to the native flora of our state," said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Joel Brunsvold. "Exotics like buckthorn, kudzu and purple loosestrife spread rapidly, degrade natural communities and can cause serious harm to threatened and endangered plants and wildlife."

Some varieties of the prohibited species may be offered for sale under different names, such as Japanese honeysuckle, which is sometimes labeled as Hall's honeysuckle. Consumers should check the scientific names of the plants to make sure they are not buying a prohibited species. Information on the banned plants, including their scientific names, can be found below.

Consumers who are aware of prohibited plants available in Illinois can contact the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Office of Law Enforcement at (217) 782-6431 or 1 (877) 236-7529 [1 (877) 2DNRLAW].

Prohobited species

Buckthorn -- All exotic buckthorns were introduced to North America as ornamental shrubs. Common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) and dahurian buckthorn (Rhamnus davurica) inhabit woodlands and savanna. Glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) is found most frequently in wetland communities, though it can spread to upland sites, including roadsides and fields. Saw-toothed buckthorn (Rhamnus arguta), Japanese buckthorn (Rhamnus japonica) and Chinese buckthorn (Rhamnus utilis) are found less frequently but are also banned. All exotic buckthorns produce a fruit that is readily eaten by birds. The severe laxative effect of the fruits means a ready distribution of seeds. Once established, exotic buckthorns crowd or shade out native shrubs and herbs. Non-native buckthorns can be found throughout Illinois but have been a particular problem in the northern two-thirds of the state. The plants also act as a host for the soybean aphid, posing a significant threat to agricultural production in the state. Plant buyers and sellers are reminded that the prohibition on the sale, possession, distribution and planting of buckthorn extends to subspecies such as plants marketed as "Asplenifolia" and "Columnaris." These are subspecies of glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) and as such are prohibited in Illinois.


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Japanese honeysuckle -- Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), introduced to the United States in the early 19th century as a ground cover plant, climbs and drapes over native vegetation, shading it out. The aggressive vine's prolific growth covers and smothers preferred vegetation, including understory shrubs and trees, resulting in habitat loss for birds and other forest, prairie and grassland wildlife.

Kudzu -- Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) was first imported to the United States from Japan in 1876 and was planted extensively in the southern U.S. to control soil erosion. The fast-growing, fast-climbing woody vine grows with dense foliage, smothering other plants. Kudzu's huge roots reach a depth of 10-12 feet, making eradication difficult. The Illinois departments of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Transportation have teamed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and private landowners on a focused chemical treatment program to slow kudzu's spread in the state.

Multiflora rose -- Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) was introduced into Illinois in the 1950s from eastern Asia for wildlife cover and food. The thorny, bushy shrub soon spread and became a serious invader of agricultural lands, pastures, roadsides and natural communities. It invades prairies, savannas, woodlands and forest edges, forming thickets or "living fences" that smother out other vegetation. It is a serious pest species throughout the state and the eastern United States.

Purple loosestrife -- Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) was introduced to North America in the1800s, rapidly expanding and reaching the upper Midwest in the 1930s. It has become a serious threat to native vegetation in Illinois during the past 20 years. Purple loosestrife occurs widely in wet habitats, such as marshes, bogs, fens, sedge meadows and wet prairies, but it also occurs in roadside ditches, on riverbanks and at the edges of ponds, lakes and reservoirs. A single stalk can produce 300,000 seeds, which can remain viable even after 20 months of submergence in water. Purple loosestrife lacks natural enemies in the United States and quickly crowds out most native vegetation.

[Illinois Department of Natural Resources
news release]


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