Japanese barberry, a haven shrub for ticks, could be banned in Pennsylvania |

Japanese barberry, a haven shrub for ticks, could be banned in Pennsylvania

Patrick Varine
John Ruter/University of Georgia/
Above, a Japanese barberry shrub.

Ohio has banned its sale. West Virginia will do so in 2020. Pennsylvania officials may act to ban it this month.

“It” is Japanese barberry, an invasive shrub that can easily take over large swaths of Pennsylvania countryside if left unchecked.

Deer won’t eat it, and so it is also a haven for ticks, who have done their unfortunate part in contributing to Pennsylvania’s current ranking alongside New Jersey as the top two worst states for Lyme disease, according to the CDC.

So why can anybody go to their local garden center and buy one of these invasive tick magnets?

“Part of the reasoning behind that is, when there’s a plant that’s extremely hardy, and looks good in people’s landscapes, and is disease-resistant, you don’t want to limit the ability of nurseries to sell that plant, because it’s a big money maker for them,” said Shannon Powers, deputy communications director with the state Department of Agriculture.

The decision to ban sales of Japanese barberry shrubs will rest with the recently-formed Pennsylvania Noxious Weeds Committee, which will meet this month. Barberry is on the agenda, Powers said.

Other states have taken measures to control it: New York banned it in 2015, but made an exception last year for certain varieties that do not produce seeds.

In Delaware and Maryland, it is classified as invasive but is not banned from being sold.

Pennsylvania’s noxious weeds list has three levels: Class A plants are limited enough geographically that they can be eradicated. These include things like giant hogweed and kudzu.

Class B plants are so widely established that there is little hope of eradicating them. These include things like multiflora rose, mile-a-minute and bull thistle.

Class C plants are listed in the federal noxious weed list, but are not yet known to be established in Pennsylvania.

“Each level triggers different efforts to address it,” Powers said.

None of the plants on the noxious weeds list can be grown, sold or transported.

When it comes to adding barberry to the list, committee members will look at all the factors involved, including damage to the environment as well as financial damage to those who typically sell the plant.

“You don’t want to make a snap decision,” Powers said. “That’s the reason it’s tied to a law. You don’t want to limit the ability of commerce. But if it’s a problem, you definitely want to have a mechanism to address it.”

Powers said she understands why garden centers and plant nurseries want to sell Japanese barberry despite its environmental downside.

“It’s pretty, it’s ornamental, it looks nice, it’s disease-resistant and it’s a big seller,” she said.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.