My research focused on preventing ornamental plant invasions in the Northeast. Invasive plant species are primarily introduced to novel regions for ornamental purposes, where they escape our backyard gardens and spread into natural areas. These invasive species continue to be sold and distributed through the plant trade due to a lack of effective regulations and public awareness. As climate change worsens, the Northeast will become increasingly vulnerable to new plant invasions. Therefore, my study focused on how we can promote awareness of invasive ornamental plants, and how we can stop new invasions in the future.
I went about this by compiling data on all invasive ornamental plants of concern to the Northeast, which was dubbed the “Do Not Sell” list. This list consisted of 279 species total. I researched the origins of each species, hardiness zones, why each species is invasive, and found native Northeast alternatives to common ornamental plants. I also held meetings with 4 local Amherst nursery professionals to discuss trends in the plant industry as well as the benefits of planting native species over non-natives. My goal was to use the Do Not Sell list and community outreach as ways of promoting awareness about our changing climate and vulnerability to new plant invasions. By planting native species over non-native ornamental plants, we can better support Northeast biodiversity, ecosystem function and resilience in the face of climate change.