Is this really legal?

Pflugerville, TX(Zone 8b)

There are an awful lot of international, federal, and individual state restictions on moving plants (whether seed, live plants, bare roots, etc. between states, whether by personal transport or through a mail carrier. The concerns are generally those related to pest infestations or plants that are considered invasive or an ecological threat to native plants in a given area. My understanding is that these laws apply not only to commercial nurseries but to individual gardeners. Am I wrong on this?

Tulsa, OK(Zone 7a)

yes guess there is but .. i was thru there Pflu. couple times stayed night surprised to see someone on here from there.. hi welcome to..

Sand Springs, OK(Zone 7a)


Pflugerville, TX(Zone 8b)

LOL....okie dokie.....mum's the word.

Pickens, SC(Zone 7a)

SHHH again.

LA, So CAL (Northrid, CA(Zone 10a)

oh well.

Milo, IA(Zone 5a)

So far we can still send seeds in the mail throughout the States and to other countries.
We living in the states are not to receive seeds from other countries, without certain certification. Which is expensive.
As far as plants, we can mail them from state to state as long as all soil is washed off the roots. With the exception of a few, California and Arizona on some plants, if not all.

Kylertown, PA(Zone 5b)

I just ordered seeds from Chiltern in the UK, and they didn't indicate that it would be a problem to send seeds to the US, or that I needed any special paperwork or certification.

I know plants need a phytosanitary certificate to get into or out of the country, but I think they are a little more lenient with seed.

Pflugerville, TX(Zone 8b)

I think it is the sender that is responsible for obtaining the certificates.....not the receiver.

Kylertown, PA(Zone 5b)

Well, none of that was mentioned when I placed my order, so I hope I don't get a surprise on my credit card bill! :-P

In any case, it would be worth it. You sure don't find unique seeds like they have at Chiltern at any of the US seed companies.

Pflugerville, TX(Zone 8b)

No I'm sure you won't. Those certificates are for inspections done at commercial nurseries and packaging sites, not on a specific order.

Seattle, WA(Zone 8b)

A lot of discussion was done on this very subject a few weeks is a link to that thread if your so inclined to read up on it. :-0

Pflugerville, TX(Zone 8b)

Thanks for the link riker. It was most interesting and informative. I had no idea the issue had already been so fully discussed. The only additional comment I would add is that I'm sure 99.9 percent of the folks that trade do so with only the best of intentions. Nonetheless, there are always risks of doing ecological damage by importing/exporting plant material in any form from country to country and state to state. Even thinking that you can contain the plant within your own yard can be a bit naive. Birds and butterflies and bees are not likely to cooperate with your plan and the seeds end up being spread. I'm not trying to preach or be judgemental here or poop on the whole concept of seed trading. I think it is a wonderful concept. Just trying to point out that even the most well intentioned and responsible gardeners could inadvertantly contribute to already unbalanced ecosystems.

Seattle, WA(Zone 8b)

I agree with you whole the old saying goes
"The road to Hell is paved with good intentions" :-)


Pflugerville, TX(Zone 8b)


I really enjoy going to more local swaps anyway and I think at least for now that is what I'll continue doing. Not only does that feel better to me from a "doing the right thing for the environment" standpoint, but it is also a blast to meet other gardeners at these events.

Mesilla Park, NM

I've ordered several plants that have been mailed by the companies in one gallon containers soil and all (they have the certificate right on the box), and I suppose they sell so many plants that they do not charge for the certificate. Most of the companies that I order from are outside CA. They have not mentioned any problems with shipments to CA. The only time I heard about a problem was shipping any citrus from CA to FL and vice versa. Now, out of the country is a whole different story. But, within the United States it varies from State to State, what is invasive in one state is not necessarily invasive to another. Like Morning Glories, the companies will not ship to AZ. So it really depends on each state. JMHO. I hope I have it right here, because if I don't, I am one confused person. lol..

Kylertown, PA(Zone 5b)

It was also discussed to some degree in this earlier thread:

I have never had a problem sending my daylily seeds to Canada. I mark them "Seeds" and note that they are a gift and they get right through.

I just sent one of my hybrid daylilies to a breeder in Belgium via a "middle man" in the southern US. The breeder in Belgium told me that although he technically needs a Phytosanitary certificate, he has been importing daylilies without them for years.

I guess it's just a toss of the dice......

Cedar Rapids, IA(Zone 5a)

Sharing and trading cultivars is one of the greatest attractions of DG. If someone from another state visits my home, I give them plants they admire. Sending it thru the mails is not very different from that.

Plants are moving freely on ebay and the government is not intefering.With the extensive travel from state to state by auto and airplane, I can assure you that spores are already moving back & forth.

If it bothers you, I will be happy to put you on my "do not send to" list. No problem.

Pflugerville, TX(Zone 8b)

That won't be necessary Wanda. I was merely asking a question as a newbie who has never had occasion to ship plant materials out of state.

Chilterns has all their ducks in line for international sales as does Thompson and Morgans. IndaShade will receive no surprises on the bill.

Bad news, best to check with your individual states as to what is legal and what isn't and best to check if what you are sending to another state is legal or not too. Seeds, rhizomes, and bulbs are not treated differently than an actual plant. These laws apply to all of us. Noxious weeds are noxious weeds and unfortunately we all get punished because of a few bad eggs. You might want to take a look at how Connecticut and Colorado handle exotic invasive plants as they are rather progressive. Florida and Texas have an interesting way of addressing the issues too.

Buyers and sellers get hammered on eBay for unlawful transactions all the time. Do a quick search for some people who are trying to sell water hyacinth and their listings will clearly state they don't sell it to anyone in certain states.

This statement was so true, "Even thinking that you can contain the plant within your own yard can be a bit naive. Birds and butterflies and bees are not likely to cooperate with your plan and the seeds end up being spread." Plants do not respect boundaries, they never have and never will. I don't mean to be preachy either but I personally spend hundreds and hundreds of hours eradicating non native invasive species of both flora and fauna. There are thousands of volunteers across the US who go out and try their best to remove species that wreak havoc in the environment and quite frankly, it offends me when people do it on purpose because they take the stance that "just one more plant" won't make a difference. Well, hundreds and thousands of people who take this stance can and do make an incredible impact.

Technically, there are no bad plants... just some plants planted in the wrong place as in on the wrong continent. Add to this the fact that the average tax payer is absolutely clueless that he/she is getting stuck with the clean up bill and we will have created a heck of a lot of confusion. I don't mind mentioning these issues in a gardening forum where people are tolerant and respectful but to mention it to one of my neighbors growing Dame's Rocket while weeding around her Queen Anne's Lace and fertilizing her English Ivy and Lily of The Valley... who has a pair of burning bushes flanking her front doorway with a Bradford Pear displayed prominently in her front lawn is asking for me to be viewed by her as someone in need of a nice snug white jacket. These plants are extremely popular. Supply and Demand. People aren't going to part with their beloved plants unless there are laws forcing them to do so and even then there will always be those who knowingly circumvent those laws.

Right now, our limits are defined by Country as well as state lines. For me, my property resides a mile or so from the Wisconsin border so my growing environment is considerably more comparable to southeastern Wisconsin yet I am bound by laws that cover all 3 zones of the state of Illinois. Basically, I am in Zone 5a because of proximity to the lake yet the southern portion of Illinois is in Zone 6b. That's a pretty big spread considering a good size chunk of northeastern Illinois is a zone 4. I may not have problems with water hyacinth in my area but they certainly do down south of me. I have issues with a few species that are deemed noxious in Wisconsin that haven't yet made it to our State's hit list because of back logs yet they are still a big problem for my County. State lines will look rather arbitrary when viewed from the perspective of growing conditions. Which for all practical purposes round robins us to personal responsibility. Do what you believe is right and within your comfort zone.

The best thing we can all do is attempt to keep learning and promote education. Good communication will be paramount in the years to come and it will better enable people to make the best decisions for them. I for one began taking a serious look at these complex issues when entire subdivisions in and around me began incorporating bylaws that stated it was against their covenants to plant anything other than a native plant. Ugh, do we really all want to end up like those subdivisions some time down the road? I certainly don't. There are just too many exotic non native plants out there that are well behaved that do not threaten native plant communities and entire ecosystems. For me, I keep to myself and do my own thing on my own property and I do not even comment to any of my neighbors.

Here’s a really great book that brought the issues into perspective for me, “Noah’s Garden” by Sara Stein.

Rocky Mount, VA(Zone 7a)

The problem is not only with invaseive plants being introduced try this link

If we do not care for our own area of the earth, we will lose .... period.

Yes, I know Dyson. Too much can be overwhelming for me and for many others. That is why I choose to do my best cleaning up my own property and not worrying about what neighbors do with theirs. I do volunteer hundreds of hours in the community working with kids though. Funny, the children grasp the concepts better than many adults. I must admit that I particularly like working with one particular Ranger. This guy has taught me a lot as has one particular land steward. Funny how you pick up so much repeatedly bending over to hand pull Garlic Mustard. Seems as if conversation just flows when people are working on public land. By the way, here's a good one for you... I found gypsy moth egg cases all over my oaks and hickories- gasp. Thanks to what I learned volunteering with a member from these very forums at her forest preserve... I knew exactly what to do.

Rocky Mount, VA(Zone 7a)

When the winter is over next spring, I will know if the power companies spraying of the "Tree of Heaven" did the job, If not I will have the rent some "heavy" equipment and relandscape :(

Invaseive = not good. Everyone please be carefull what you introduce (plant, animal, etc.).

Hi Dyson, no need to rent heavy equipment for that Tree of Heaven, it would just come back ten fold to haunt you anyway unless the stumps were treated. I can offer some suggestions if you are interested. Contact me privately and I will share with you how we handled them in South Carolina. Come to think of it, there's a member here who manages thousands of acres and I bet she might even have some better ideas. Best wishes to you.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

And for the view from the other side:

Woodland Park, CO(Zone 4b)

Hope no one minds if I jump in and make a few comments here. This is a subject dear to my heart and my livelihood.

Wandazflowers brings up an interesting point-that plants are moving freely via e-bay and the government is not interfering.
Because they can't. There's not enough time or money to hire people to search e-bay or the internet for violations. Regardless of the law here in Colorado how could this be enforced except at the end user-meaning after it's growing in someones garden? Are you going to support a national tax to hire me and others to track down and try to prosecute those illegal sales on the internet?

As Equilbrium points out, " People aren't going to part with their beloved plants unless there are laws forcing them to do so and even then there will always be those who knowingly circumvent those laws." Too true!! I would love to think that education alone will solve the problem. In time it may. But, we still need strong regulation to slow the problem. People will not do what they can't get away with.

As far as regulating the movement of seeds across borders there is a huge disconnect between what each state department of agriculture regulates and what the Federal government regulates. Understandably so-each state has the right to do what it need/thinks important. The problem however is that seeds or plants of just about anything on a state banned list can be shipped from other countries into the US legally thru APHIS with their blessing because it's not on their banned list. Those banned plants/seeds go on to places where it is patently illegal to grow!!
I've had this conversation with many-in particular, current members/employees of the USDA APHIS regulatory team for importation of biologoical control and weed regulation. Imagine my surprize when I learned that this scenario takes place all the time. Although they are cognizant and very concerned about the problem it's not within their regulatory authority!! And, that in order to get around the various state laws sellers are increasingly turning to the internet mail order buisness where addresses are not published, phones are not needed and they can't be tracked!!

Just for giggles I have a few searches set on e-bay for plants that are common problems (toadflax, Russian olive, tamarisk, dames rocket, african rue, ox-eye daisy, tree of heaven). I get hits on a daily basis for at least one of the above and all but the tamarisk). Sure, some of the sellers have disclaimers that such and such seed or plant cannot be shipped to certain states. Many do not and most do not want to hear it even if asked not to sell this with in a particular state. Some sellers clearly state that it is solely the buyers responsibility, and while I agree that we need to take responsibility for what we plant I also know that the law here states differently-sellers, buyers, growers are treated alike under the law and it's still illegal. To me this is a cop-out. If I know the item is illegal in Colorado, sell it anyway BUT state that you the buyer are responsible then I'm off the hook? Not legally and certainly not ethically.

Sellers on e-bay get around selling African Rue (highly invasive and outright banned here and in other states) as an ancient medicinal plant that our ancestors used as well as a "legal hallucenogen". What a bunch of baloney! This is what I was told from a seller on E-bay who is located in a state where the plant is patently illegal to grow, sell pr posess, " The plant is not illegal to posess, sell, or anything else. I do believe your right about it being classified a noxious weed. But as such the cultivation law doesn't apply to a back yard gardener growing a few plants for their own use. It would only be illegal to cultivate it commercially." Here's another, " Peganum Harmala [african rue] is a sacred and medicinal plant. It is not illegal. It is classified as a “noxious plant” to increase awareness of its overpopulation due to our American forefathers who planted this wonderful herb in much to large a quantity." Didn't know that our American forefathers arrived in this county in the 1930's.

People will say and sell anything if and only if there's a market for it. Want to make a difference?? Do not buy from companies that do business in these plants! But in the mean time I want strong laws in place (and not for traders with the best intentions-they can be cured with education, lol).

This message was edited Nov 11, 2004 7:04 AM

Cedar Rapids, IA(Zone 5a)

I understand the problem. Fortunately, most of us are not sending invasive plants but rather cultivars that have crossed the ocean for centuries: iris, daylilies, lilies, peonies, phlox and house plants.

I know that many plants that are merely a annual here in Iowa can become very invasive in warmer states that have no killing frost or where the seeding can be overwhelming. I about died when Mom bought 5 Trumpet vines for the fence in my garden. HELP! And she bought the darn things from a well known national catalog. They would smother my whole garden in a few years if I let them!

I agree that we need to be cautious. Who hasn't seen the kudzu crawling up from the South? Animals & fish with no natural predators can be a problem too. Coyotes re- introduced into Iowa to lower our deer population have destroyed our quail.

The variety in our gardens is a result of our seeking rare cultivars not available locally. And DG allows us to trade or share plants/seeds with other gardeners who may not be able to afford to buy them. I am always willing to share.

Awesome! What a great response! Holy moly! Great balls of fire caron! Sadly, I am for stiffer regulation. II don't see any way around it. Looks as if that's the direction we are going anyway.

And Dyson, you might want to start a new thread. I received several PMs from people who seem desperate to get rid of that Tree Of Heaven. For the most part, they seem to be merely cutting it down and that's the big problem as it will just come back a hundred fold if not treated. Maybe if there is a new thread on just getting rid of that particular plant, they can all hop on. I do know that chainsawing it and immediately painting the stump with Tordon RTU or full strength Garlon 3 or full strenth concentrated BrushBGon works quite well as that's what we used to eliminate that monster and the darn tree IS aleopathic so as many of those trees as we can get rid of is great!

Woodland Park, CO(Zone 4b)

I am always will to trade too Wanda. But I will not be one sending any ox-ey daisy or dames rocket (which I can get seed of by walking down the block) no matter how bad anyone wants it!!

And I REALLY hope no one thinks I was targeting anyone here, I'm not!! Just trying to share some of my experiences. This is just general garden variety (pun intended) musings as I am in the business of controling some of these nasties for a living.

He he he, I certainly don't send out seed of Dame's Rocket or Ox-eye daisy as I bag that and toss it in the dumpster or burn it! It burns very well! Snap crackle pop! Bonfire at my house this weekend for more buckthorn!

I haven't been doing any trading lately as I have more than enough on my plate but I have been sending out seed of mine that people want just because I love it when somebody shows an interest in a native plant. I must admit, I am also sending out some hosta seed for somebody to try to germinate! I did have somebody ask me for Queen Anne's Lace seed last week. I basically told her what the issues were with that plant and offered her a substitute of both Veronicastrum and native yarrow. She really liked both of those and took them. For every nasty out there, I have found there to exist a multitude of responsible alternatives.

Melvindale, MI(Zone 5a)

I have not heard of these two plants you are talking about. What is wrong with them? Are they invasive? I looked them up on the database and they are nice looking plants. Didn't see any comments on them there.

Woodland Park, CO(Zone 4b)

Both are invasive. From mildly to horribly depending on the location. They are banned in some areas with more info coming in from gardeners/weed managers/states/counties of invasions in new places that are hard to eradicate.

I'm gonna take a chance here and thow out something. I do agree with Wandasflowers that many gardeners are seeking rare cultivars that are hard to find or just something different to grow-hence trading is a great way to do this. I have no specific issue with sharing or trading here or anywhere else and do not want to see this practice end....

But here's something to think about, and I am NOT faulting anyone, just making another observation.
Did a search here for trade items and this is what I found:

Kudzu - 1 (wanted)
Arundo donax-1 (wanted)
Tree of Heaven-1
Dames Rocket-10
water hyacinth-8
Bradford pear-1
Russian olive-1
Japanese honeysuckles-4
Toadflax- (linaria dalmatica or L. vulgaris)-5
Oxe-eye daisy-6
African Rue-2
burning bush=Kochia scoparoia-2 (1 wanted)
Queen Ann's lace-5
myrtle spurge-1
cypress spurge-2
purple loosestrife-3
Loosestrife all varieties except purple -13 (5 wanted)
scotch thistle-1
scotch broom-1
English Ivy-7 (1 wanted)
Burning bush- 6 (3 wanted)
St John's wort-2

Ok, I'm not suggesting that anyone be banned from offering these nor would even I suggest it. These are small amounts in the grand scheme of things to be sure.

is this a problem? How do we educate then without coming off as eco-fanatics (eco terrorists, eco-nazis, whatever)?
Do we bother? And are we arrogant enough to think that if we educate then people will automatically "see the light" and see things "our" way?

This message was edited Nov 11, 2004 9:10 AM

McKinney, TX(Zone 8a)

Some people are just clueless that one plant is invasive in one area, but not in another. Of course this is probably the reason for "White List" proposal. While your state may have banned something, it may be widely planted in another (even by the state itself). Things like Ox-eye Daisy and St. John's Wort are sold and planted here. Queen Anne's Lace is allowed to grow (and go to seed) here as a wildflower. Things known for invasiveness around here - Elephant Ear, Japanese Honeysuckle, Ligustrum/Privet, Castor Bean, Chinaberry, Water Hyacinth, Winter Honeysuckle Bush (sold in the recent co-op), Nandina, Chinese Tallow. How many people outside of this area grow them, not knowing this? I know I have been guilty of growing stuff that just barely lives around here and would be clueless that it would take over elsewhere. The White List proposal is a bureaucrats way they think they are protecting us from our own ignorance.

Pflugerville, TX(Zone 8b)

Perhaps some folks would be willing to volunteer to start a separate or sub data base of invasives that contain all this great info by plant, including the areas in which they are invasive and why? I have done many searches trying to come up with some sort of all incompassing list and have not found one. In fact the one you posted, caron, is the best I have found. Thank you. I'm not anywhere near as knowledgable about invasives as many of you are, but I would be willing to help in whatever way I can to put such a data base together.

I really like the seed trading idea here and would like to participate, but my ignorance of what is invasive in other parts of the country and the world is what is keeping me from doing it. If there were a data base where I could look up plants that I might want or have to trade with to find out if and where they were invasive, I know I personally would feel much more comfortable about trading. I would also really hate to see DG be forced to stop this trading altogether because of any lack of oversight or individual accountability for responsible trading. Let's face it, in the event this practice came to the negative light of regulators, it would be far easier for them to just shut down DG altogether than to go after individual traders who have or do advertised invasive for trade.

Woodland Park, CO(Zone 4b)

I agree to a point, sweezel.

Kudzu, once thought to invade only the southern reaches of the country has been found far outside its known range. Clearly we don't know everything (and in this arena may know nothing at all). But it seems that if the possibility of invasiveness exists even in another region of the country, this may be reason enough to go think about looking for somthing a bit more suitable to the area?

Here's another example: Tamarisk (salt cedar) which is a problem in the southwest (yes, once again our own VERY BIG mistake) and thought to be limited severly by elevation has been found growing at 9500' in the Colorado Rockies. Is it spreading? Well, not rapidly that's for sure. But it is alive and reproducing. A well known and respected, large nursery in New Mexico sells and recommends Tamarisk in a state where it's illegal and a major problem. Tamarisk does not particularly like the conditions in the midwest but on a trip to the Chicago area this summer it is clearly growing there too. I am really left wondering what it is that we don't know about all this and what other invasive plants will prove to be highly adapted in someone elses "unsuitable" region/climate, etc...Not sure that I want to find out in 20 years that that ox-eye daisy has spread to every state and is now the poster child for noxious weeds like tamarisk is here in the southwest, or Purple loosestrife is elsewhere.

I would however urge eveyone to read entire the text of the "white list" proposal and make up their own minds and not rely on seed/plant seller web sites (who have the most to loose dollar wise) for out-of-context information that is so common on the internet.

Lenexa, KS(Zone 6a)

Pville - the PDB does have a option to check for Invasiveness.

Here's the entry for Kudzu ....... check out the Other Details section.

Woodland Park, CO(Zone 4b)

Here is a link:
It's fairly inclusive but is sometimes slow to update with rapidly changing weed laws in each state.
But you can search by Federal status, by state, and then there is the giant composite list (slow to load).
It's a start.
You can also generally search the net for the plant name + invsasive to get a better handle on what's being reported in different areas. Sometimes each states official list is published on either the states Department of Agriculture web page, or the Department of Natural Resources web page.

Flat Rock, NC(Zone 7b)

Ok, writ my name down in the "clueless" column. How and where do I find out what is on my paticular state's (NC) 'banned' list? I trade seeds and plants all the time, and I had no idea all this was going on! Help, someone!

Woodland Park, CO(Zone 4b)

go to the link I posted and find your stae under the "state Noxious Weed Reports" section. Your list was updated sometime last year so it may/may not be complete These are legally defined noxious weeds only. It does not include some of those we are talking about here-invasive plants listed in one state and not another that you may/may not grow (or may want to grow)

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