Effort to ban more invasive species, like the Bradford pear tree in South Bend | Local
SOUTH BEND – The state took a major step forward in 2019 by banning the sale, transport, trade, donation or introduction of 44 invasive plants. A similar move was brewing in South Bend around the same time, but the group behind it, the city’s ecological defense committee, noticed that 47 species were excluded from the state’s list.
Among the sautéed plants was the Bradford pear tree, whose lush white blossoms now line the bustling streets of newly built churches, businesses and even urban projects.
Their young offspring, easily planted by berry-picking birds, often congregate in nearby fields, an early bloomer that outshines native plants.
On Monday, committee chairman Steve Sass and city park officials hope to fill those gaps. When it meets at 7 p.m., the South Bend Common Council hold a public hearing and vote on changes to city ordinances this would prohibit the broader list of land plants from being sold or planted within city limits.
“We have to stop the influx of things taking over,” Sass said.
He not only leads the parks board’s ecological advisory group, but he is the co-founder of an almost 12,000-member Facebook group, IN Nature, and a participatory database of native insects and plants. .
Invasive species sometimes grow so aggressively that they stifle native life – not just plants, but beneficial insects, birds and animals that need them – harming public parks and agriculture.
Sass said the 47 added species “seem like a lot, but more than half of them are not found in the nursery trade.”
Besides the Bradford pear, aka the Callery pear, the city’s expanded list would include the burning bush and Norway maple and groundcover periwinkle with its purple flowers and English ivy. These are the kinds of things that people have innocently planted for decades, but they have escaped their borders. Now, some of the banks of the St. Joseph River are inundated with a gardener’s plant or foreign trees that were once considered safe to grow.
The city’s larger list would simply match the top invasive species identified by the Indiana Invasive Species Council. The council, made up of members from both industry and conservation, has listed 126 species of terrestrial and aquatic plants. You can link to this list here.
The state ban in 2019, which you can link to in this text online, left the Bradford pear and some species because state officials believed it would cause economic harm to nurseries and retailers due to lost sales.
But the Indianapolis Star reported that the sale of Bradford pear trees has fallen substantially in Indiana to just under half a million dollars. Indiana Invasive Species Council officials attribute this to efforts to educate the public and nurseries. They are hoping to put the Bradford Pears on the statewide ban, although it may take a few years, and they said it was best to win by stemming public demand.
“It’s so hard to convince the public not to plant them,” city forester Brent Thompson said of Bradford pears. “They are so pretty now.”
Experts also warn that the trees are structurally weak and prone to damage during severe storms, which means they could pose a safety hazard as well. And their lifespan is relatively short, barely 20-30 years.
“It’s all about education,” said Thompson.
No fine foreseen
Current city ordinances allow the park council or superintendent to fine someone for violation. But Sass and Thompson have insisted that no one intends to go out and fining businesses and individuals. Nobody goes snooping around in the courtyards and gardens either. Existing plants wouldn’t count anyway – the ban would only apply to newly purchased or planted species.
The “happiest outcome,” Sass said, is that the city is reaching out to all local nurseries and landscapers to let them know they will have to run out of stocks – and if they have just complied. The changes would potentially take effect on September 1 to give companies a chance to liquidate their inventory from specific factories.
Sass wants this to be a model for other communities in Indiana to restrict invasive species as well.
In 2018, Knox County in southwest Indiana became the first community in Indiana to pass an ordinance banning the sale of invasive plants, covering more than 60 species. But earlier this year – in the face of pressure from retailers – county commissioners changed the ordinance so that the plants could be sold to people outside the county, media reported.
South Bend recently updated its list of “standards and specifications” for development projects to permanently end the use of invasive species, even in the city’s own projects. Now, Sass said, that list is tied to future updates to the city’s landscaping ordinance. It’s a way to synchronize with what exterior architects and city planners are doing.
“We would stop selling and be ok with that,” said Homer Trecartin, sales manager and production planning manager for Twixwood Nursery in Berrien Springs, which grows and sells ground covers and perennials for landscapers from Michiana and across the country.
He agrees that Bradford’s pear trees “should be gone,” but argues that some ground covers – although invasive – can be used with caution if contained. As an example, he cites periwinkle, which is on the city’s expanded list and which has spread in the local woods.
Some ground covers work best in northern Indiana, he said, because the colder climate prevents them from ripening and producing seeds.
The ordinance changes proposed by South Bend, however, would not harm Twixwood’s business, Trecartin said, as it would only sell other factories. He grows several sedges which can work as alternatives.
John Foegley, owner of South Bend Foegley Landscape, stopped using Bradford pear trees and their “notoriously weak branches” about 10 years ago after he listened to an architect’s advice: does it look like in 100 years? … in 10 years?”
Foegley, who primarily designs and builds residential landscaping, has also stopped using other invasive species. When asked if he had lost any money because of it, he categorically said no. If a customer asks for an invasive species, they simply respond that it is not available.
“Most people will take advice from landscape architects,” he said.
For the few homeowners he speaks with, Thompson said, he’s been able to convert them to native plants half the time, but others may be “dead” on a tree they see in the yard. a neighbour. Likewise, some landscapers feel competition from others who would plant what the client wants, good or bad.
But Foegley said for almost every invasive species sold, there was a good native plant to replace.
Instead of the Bradford pear, the modest-sized native serviceberry grows similar white flowers, as well as fruit that the birds will eat.
“There are better things out there that provide food for wildlife and don’t support batches,” Foegley said. “Sometimes it comes down to the fact that pear trees are just cheap. In for money.”
Struggle continues in the parks
Invasive species are an ongoing problem in almost all parks, which are hampered by limited staff and resources.
In St. Joseph County Parks, interpretation and maintenance staff do some work controlling plants – in addition to their usual duties – but the work is mostly done by volunteers, such as during a recent day of work where volunteers pulled garlic mustard in St. Patrick’s County Park, said assistant principal Leslie Witkowski.
“The battle can be won, but not the war,” she said, noting that each year they must continually attack the same areas where species appear.
For some species, the right chemicals must be applied, otherwise the plant will persist. The department has spent up to $ 2,500, as it did last year, to treat reed canarygrass at Spicer Lake Nature Reserve, but it appears that this invasion is slowly progressing.
A line of Bradford pear trees was planted in St. Patrick’s several years ago when experts weren’t sure how damaging it could be. The park now regularly treats and removes the tree. Cutting it is not enough. Chemicals are needed, Witkowski said, otherwise it will push suckers back to the base of the trunk. Of course, the abundant bird life can also drop seeds collected from neighbors’ gardens.
In the parks of the city of South Bend, invasive Norwegian maples and Siberian elms (which would be added to the city’s ordinance) have invaded parts of the banks of the St. Joseph River. But if they were to be removed now, with some of them in their 60s to 70s, Thompson said, they could destabilize the shores and promote erosion.
He said the city was carrying out control work on some of the ubiquitous honeysuckle bushes. If left alone, he said, “It will totally invade the bottom of a river forest so nothing else grows.”
A carpet of creepers, which is currently banned by the state, dominates the floor of Woodlawn Park, a wood by the river just north of Keller Park where native spring wildflowers also grow.
Impact on tree lawns
The proposed changes to the ordinance also list certain trees that should not be planted in tree lawns, not necessarily invasive trees, but trees that are problematic for sidewalks and streets, such as silver maples, of which the shallow roots destroy sidewalks; black walnuts, whose nuts can create hazards to pedestrians; and evergreens, which block the view of motorists.
The sponsor of the proposal, Sharon McBride, a board member, said she was unaware of invasive species until she became chair of the board’s PARC committee for parks, recreation, cultural arts and entertainment in 2018. That’s when she heard from Sass and Parks Executive Director Aaron Perri about the proposed ordinance changes. Even now, she’s still overwhelmed by the wide array of plants in parks and yards, but she sees the value in protecting native species.
McBride said the only criticism she heard came from fellow council members who had heard from a few voters – who initially thought the proposal wasn’t tough enough, then later agreed it was.
If there is a denial, she said, “this is where more education needs to take place.”
“I think we are heading in the right direction for climate change,” McBride said.