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Plants Brought From Other Countries May Pose Environmental Threat

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Lawns and gardens across the Tri-State area are getting a lot of love this time of year.

But some new Jersey residents are concerned that the plants used to beautify people’s homes are bad for the environment and they want them banned, CBS2’s Elise Finch reported.

Natasha Degannes is shopping for plants for her home garden. She said she purposely chooses plants that are native to this area.

“We have to make sure we preserve the environment for our kids,” she said.

But not everyone has the same approach to gardening and landscaping.

Sandy Bonardi is the director naturalist at Greenbook Sanctuary in Tenafly. She said she spends most of her summer trying to kill invasive plants. Grasses, shrubs and trees that were brought to New Jersey from other countries either by accident or for landscaping purposes.

“They come in and they’re just able to spread everywhere because there’s nothing that eats them,” she said. “The native insects won’t eat them and the deer won’t eat them.”

Bonardi said with no natural predators, the foreign plants thrive and the native plants die, as do the native animals that rely on them for food and nesting grounds. There are thousands of of these invasive plants including Japanese stilt grass, a climbing vine called Asiatic Bittersweet, Japanese Angellica trees, Wineberry and Barberry. They may have been panted in people’s yards but they spread.

Naturalists like Bonardi said they’re doing what they can to get rid of invasive plants, but they need help from lawmakers.

“It always drives me crazy when I go to a nursery and I see Burning Bush still for sale,” she said.

Bonardi wants legislators to ban the growth, sale and use of all invasive plants in New Jersey, which has already been done in New York and Connecticut. Some said that’s not the right approach.

“That doesn’t make any sense to me. That really doesn’t. I think people should have the right to set up in their garden what they want,” Woodcliff Lake resident Wylie Hembree said.

But others say they would support an invasive plant ban.

“As long as people become more informed about why they shouldn’t have these other things, they’re going to understand and go back to using things that are better for the environment,” Metropolitan Farms manager Jennifer Anderson said.

Naturalists said some invasive plants are also bringing insects that kill natives trees. Many are hoping for legislation before entire forests in northern New Jersey are destroyed.

Article source: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2016/06/21/foreign-plant-debate/