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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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Thursday - February 03, 2011

From: New York, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Plant Laws
Title: Possibility of transporting native seeds to Europe
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi, Is it possible to bring seeds for North American plants and wildflowers from the USA to Europe? I live in Italy and have many Italian friends who want me to bring seeds from America the next time I travel back and forth. Grazie.

ANSWER:

We get lots of requests about sending North American native plant seeds to overseas locations, like bluebonnets for Afghanistan or England or Germany, for homesick Texans. If you are not exporting a large amount of seeds for sale, you probably will have no problems, particularly in leaving the United States, perhaps carrying the seeds in plastic packets in your luggage, as opposed to in your carryon luggage. We cannot advise you on the legality of this, that is out of our line. There is, however, always the possibility that taking foreign seeds into some particular destination will be challenged by the Customs officials there. We know that the Australians are particularly careful because so much of their land has been devastated by imported plants that have become invasive, destroying food plants for native animals and birds, and overrunning native areas. You should probably contact someone, perhaps in the Italian Legation in New York? about whether small amounts of seeds are permitted to be taken with you to Italy.

On the other hand, we don't like the idea of any seeds native to North America going to other countries and possibly becoming invasive. So many invasive damaging plants have been brought into the United States and ruined habitats all over the country. For instance, King Ranch bluestem grass was brought into the United States for grazing, and now is an invasive weed.  Or look at kudzu, the poster child for invasive plants; it was brought into the United States as an ornamental. We would hope that none of our native seeds could produce such a problem in Italy, but we don't want to find out we were wrong.

And, finally, we suspect that you would go to all this trouble and risk having your seeds confiscated somewhere along the way, and then your friends would discover that they won't grow in Italy. We choose to employ only plants native to an area because those plants are accustomed to the soils, rainfall and climate of that area with millennia of experience. The native pollinators are accustomed to going to those plants, they are browsed by animals or beautify fields; enjoy the native plants of Italy and leave the native plants of North America in North America.

 

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