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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Friday - March 03, 2006

From: England, Other
Region: Other
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Inadvisability of importing plants from one region to another
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

I wonder if you could help me. I want to send my friends some conifer trees from England to Florida USA. I went on the Department of Agriculture site and they recommended your site for questions. Thankyou.

ANSWER:

Your inquiry raises some important issues concerning the advisability of importing a plant from one continent or region into another.

If the plant is a non-native species, it may not be adaptable to its new environment and may not survive. Unless it is to be grown in a controlled indoor environment of some sort, it is unlikely that a cold-temperate, English species of conifer would survive in subtropical to tropical Florida.

If, however, it does survive and comes to thrive, it may do so well that it displaces native Florida plants and becomes a damaging, invasive species, which would reduce habitat not only for native plants but also for native animals.

If you are wanting to import from England a species of conifer native to Florida, such as Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) or Southern Red Cedar (Juniperus silicicola or Juniperus virginiana var. silicicola), it is still risky to do so because of possible disease contamination, for which plants are regulated by both federal and state governments in the U.S. You can read the specifics on federal and Florida state plant importation regulations.

Two well-known communicable conditions transmitted by junipers are cedar-apple rust (Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae) and cedar blight, (Phomopsis juniperovora). Cedar-apple rust can spread to apples, hawthorns, and other members of the rose family and can thus damage important food crops. Cedar blight can spread to other conifers.

For these reasons, it is generally inadvisable to import plants from one region into another, which is why the practice is stringently regulated.
 

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