Invaders for sale: the ongoing spread of invasive species by the plant trade industry
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
The sale of ornamental nonnative plants is a primary pathway of invasive plant introduction into the US. As a result, many nonnative plants have been identified as noxious weeds by federal and state governments, or as problematic invasive plants by agencies and nonprofit organizations. However, it is unclear whether identifying a species as invasive has curtailed its sale as an ornamental. Using the Google search engine and a database of nursery catalogs, we found that 61% of 1285 plant species identified as invasive in the US remain available through the plant trade, including 50% of state-regulated species and 20% of federal noxious weeds. Vendors offering invasive plants were located in all lower 48 states. The widespread availability of invasive plants in the US is likely a symptom of disjointed state regulations that fail to protect ecosystems and economies. Regional regulation coupled with outreach to growers and consumers is needed to reduce the ongoing propagation of invasive plants in the US.