Some ornamentals are illegal
Some ornamental flowers, shrubs and grasses are illegal in Kansas. Selling, trading or simply moving the plants in the state is illegal, too.
"Officially, they're pests that the Kansas Department of Agriculture has placed under permanent quarantine," said Ward Upham, horticulturist with K-State Research and Extension.
They aren't always classed as noxious weeds because they entered the United States as landscape or medicinal plants. In some cases, they're still available through mail-order catalogs, Upham warned. But, all are tough, aggressive perennials that spread easily. They can be a threat to native flora, as well as to Kansas agriculture.
"Ironically, they can be quite beautiful when they bloom, out where Kansans are still struggling to get these naturalized, invasive plants under control," he said.
Upham provided these details about the four groups of plants the KDA has quarantined:
--All deciduous Tamarix species and Tamarisk cultivars (salt cedars).
These shrub-like trees can be 5 to 20 feet tall. They have slender branches; scale-size, overlapping, gray-green leaves; and dense masses of little white to pink flowers that appear in spikes at their branch tips. Native to Eurasia and Africa, the thicket-forming trees secrete salt that crusts--above and below ground--to inhibit other plants' growth.
Each mature Tamarix has a long tap root that makes it fire-adapted and helps it absorb up to 200 gallons of water a day. It also produces hundreds of thousands of tiny seeds every year. With the slightest moisture, the seeds can germinate within 24 hours.
The quarantine covers all varieties of Tamarix, including such horticultural favorites as the Cheyenne Red, Pink Cascade, Plumosa, Rubra and Summer Glo.
--Purple loosestrife, including Lythrum salicaria, Lythrum virgatum, and all hybrids derived from those species.
This colorful perennial came as a contaminant of the ballast on European sailing ships and now is in every state except Florida. It spread so easily because it has pretty flowers, medicinal qualities and an aggressive root system. Plus, each mature plant produces more than 2 million ground-pepper-size seeds per year, and even a fragment of root will produce a new plant. Purple loosestrife has look-alikes, but it alone produces long, narrow spikes of magenta flowers on square stems.
Their Kansas quarantine includes such varieties as Atropurpureum, Augenweide, Blush, Brightness, Cinereum, Columbia Pink, Dropmore Purple, Feuerkerze, Firecandle, Florarose, Happy, Hirsutum, Lady Sackville, Little Robert, Morden Gleam, Morden Pink, Morden Rose, Prichard's Variety, Rakete, Red Gem, Robert, Robi, Rosa Spitzentraum, Rose, Rose Queen, Rosencaule, Roseum, Rosy Gem, Stichflamme, Svea, Swirl, The Beacon, The Bride, The Rocket and Zigeunerblut.
--Grecian foxglove cultivars (Digitalis lanata).
As their Latin genus name suggests, Grecian foxglove and its relatives can yield compounds useful in cardiac medicine. Unfortunately, all parts of Grecian foxglove also are toxic to the touch and poisonous (fresh or dried) to humans, livestock and wildlife. A native of central and southern Europe, Grecian foxglove can be 2- to 5-feet tall. After the first year's rosette, it produces numerous tubular flowers, arranged in an elongated cluster. Each plant is a prolific seed producer.
Grecian foxglove is unlike its garden-variety kin in that it has woolly hairs on stem and calyx (the leaflike part of each flower, under the petals). Grecian foxglove also has a narrow range of flower color: creamy white to pale yellow with brownish-purple veins.
Among the Kansas-quarantined varieties of Grecian foxglove are Cafe CrÃ®me, Genova and Spice Island.
--All federal noxious weeds, including such as ornamentals as Japanese bloodgrass (Imperata cylindrica), the giant salvinia floating ferns (Salvinia auriculata, S. biloba, S. herzogii), and several nonnative climbing ferns (Lygodium flexuosum, L. microphyllum).
In this spring's "Noxious and Invasive Weed Update" (WeedReport04112011), the KDA included a discussion of just one member of the fourth quarantine group: Japanese bloodgrass, which, unlike other ornamental grasses, spreads via seeds and rhizomes, just as bamboo does. The 1- to 2-feet-tall grass is upright. When its leaves emerge, they're a light, bright green with red tips. The leaves change to blood red by fall.
Japanese bloodgrass is a variety of cogongrass--an Oriental staple used for erosion control, roof thatching, mat weaving and traditional Chinese medicine. That's a problem because the ornamental can suddenly revert back to its taller, greener and even more aggressive cogongrass form, joining the ranks of one of the world's 10 worst weeds. That form already has invaded 153 billion acres worldwide--1 million in Florida alone.
Bloodgrass cultivars the KDA has placed under quarantine include the Red Baron and Rubra.
"If you've got these ornamentals already growing in your landscape, that's okay, so long as you planted them before they went under quarantine," Upham said. "You'll break quarantine only if you allow them to escape from your garden, move them within your garden or give divisions to your friends."
Tamarisk went under Kansas quarantine in 2006, the federal noxious weed species in 2004, purple loosestrife in 2002 and Grecian foxglove in 2001.
For a small lab fee, any local K-State Research and Extension office can forward a plant sample to the university for testing. For questions about quarantined plants, Kansas can contact State Weed Control Specialist Darin Banks in the KDA's Plant Protection and Weed Control Program at 785-862-2180 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Plant Protection and Weed Control staff within the Kansas Department of Agriculture have a simple-sounding job: ensure the health of the state's plants--all of them.
That means scouting for and analyzing pest conditions in fields, pastures, greenhouses and nurseries. The plant protectors then must work to see that especially destructive pests--insects, diseases or weeds--are excluded from the state or brought under control.
Their current "hit list" for plants includes these legally defined Kansas noxious weeds, which landowners also are responsible for controlling:
--Kudzu (Pueraria lobata);
--Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis);
--Russian knapweed (Centaurea repens);
--Hoary cress (Cardaria draba);
--Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense);
--Quackgrass (Agropyron repens);
--Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula);
--Bur ragweed (Ambrosia grayii);
--Pignut (Hoffmannseggia densiflora);
--Musk (nodding) thistle (Carduus nutans L.);
--Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense), and
--Sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata).
Kansas law allows the state's counties to add two other plants to their own noxious weed list--the multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) and the bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare).