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Invasive plants have spread all over Virginia; Some groups say that needs to stop

The arrival of spring in Virginia has long been associated with the delicate white blossoms and, to some noses, the unpleasant scent of Bradford pear trees. However, the tree’s journey to becoming a springtime staple in the state is a relatively recent one, starting in the 1960s when its attractive flowers led to a surge in popularity.

Despite their visual appeal, these trees are not as benign as they may seem. According to Kevin Heffernan, a biologist with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Bradford pear trees are invasive. Their rapid proliferation can stifle the growth of native plants, pose challenges for birds that consume their fruit, and cause damage to infrastructure and accidents due to their propensity to shed heavy limbs.

Heffernan emphasized the importance of respecting the natural behavior and tendencies of living organisms, particularly in an increasingly urbanized society. Invasive species, as the name suggests, are non-native species that thrive and reproduce in their new environments. In Virginia, state code further classifies them as species that can cause economic or environmental harm, as well as harm to human health. Some of the potential adverse effects identified by the state include damage to crops, pasture and forestlands, waterway blockages, the spread of diseases to humans and livestock, and the destruction of street trees.

Curiously, Virginia currently lacks laws that prohibit the planting, cultivation, or sale of invasive plants. Heffernan attributes this gap to the profitability of invasive plants in the nursery and landscaping industries. While these trees may add aesthetic charm to springtime landscapes, their unintended consequences warrant careful consideration and possibly regulatory action in the future.

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