When the Missouri Department of Conservation posted about stopping the spread of Callery pear, there were several good questions and comments about legal ramifications for distributing invasive plants. We will address some of them here.
“If Callery pear trees are a problem, why are they sold at almost all home stores?”
It is not illegal to sell Callery pear. While many small nurseries are aware of the problem and no longer carry Callery cultivars, large stores with national purchasing programs still stock Callery on their sales floor.
The only Missouri law concerning invasive plants is the Noxious Weed Law 263.190, which identifies only 12 species of plants. Most of those species are commonly known to threaten agricultural land.
The Noxious Weed Law comes with two legal mandates:
- Noxious weeds may not be sold.
- Landowners must control and/or eradicate these particular weeds.
Since Callery pears are planted on countless lawns and landscapes, the second mandate would require all private homeowners to cut down their pear trees. That would be highly unpopular. Plus, there aren’t enough resources to enforce the law.
Failure to comply with the Noxious Weed Law is a misdemeanor. County prosecutors enforce it.
“Ban the things. Other states do. They cannot be shipped there.”
Currently, adding a plant to the Noxious Weed Law list requires review and approval by the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
However, to create a new designation of plants that are banned from sale (and not require landowners to control) would require changing statutes through the legislative process.
The State of Ohio recently passed new legislation that bans the sale of 30+ species of known invasive plants (read law here). Missouri agencies are aware of the legislation. The Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force is currently reviewing the spread of invasive species statewide in order to make research-based recommendations regarding new rules.
“Could the USDA be petitioned to stop the sale?”
We prefer to educate the public rather than pursue top-down measures.
“What can I do to stop the spread?”
Spread something else: spread the word! Tell the story about how ornamental pears are cross-breeding with cousins, and how it’s becoming a big problem for roadways, empty fields, and other landscapes in Missouri. Contact your city officials, legislators, and governor, to express your thoughts on Callery pear and other invasive species. Advocate for solutions at all levels of your community.
About Noxious Weed Law, from the Missouri Department of Agriculture
The State of Missouri has designated twelve weed species as noxious.
Weeds on this list are designated as such because they can cause economic harm to the state’s agriculture industry and because of the high level of difficulty associated with controlling or eradicating the species. For more information visit Noxious Weed Control (http://agriculture.mo.gov/plants/ipm/noxiousweeds.php)