Another intriguing booth at the 2013 Chicago Flower & Garden Show was a cooperative venture by a number of related government and university groups, operating under the aegis of the Sea Grant organization. This defines itself as an entity which “combines research, education and outreach to empower southern Lake Michigan communities to secure a healthy environment and economy”, and has projects in a dozen assorted areas.
One of these focuses on invasive aquatic species, and the theme for their participation at the show was to encourage gardeners to be aware of what plants to avoid using in their assorted water features. Another organization, the Midwest Invasive Plant Network had a display of material identifying various invasive species and the ranges of their infiltration. This is from one of the Sea Grant brochures:
Some plants and animals available to water gardeners are invasive and cause harm to natural waterways. They can drastically change ecosystems and create inhospitable conditions for native plants and animals. They can also … be costly or near impossible to remove.
Representative Greg Hitzroth, from the staff of the Chicago Botanic Garden, walked us through the issues and the message they were trying to get through to the show attendees:
From what I could tell from over-hearing his conversations with some gardeners, many of the listed invasive plants are not only available for sale for garden usage, but quite common, and much of what they were trying to achieve by exhibiting there was to raise the awareness about these plants being disruptive to the local environment. One visitor by the booth told a tale of putting in “two or three” of a particular ornamental plant in a pond on his property, and soon having it muscling out nearly all the native species. Much like the issues with the Asian Carp, this is an on-going fight for these organizations, in this case with both land- and water-based vegetation.
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