Statewide ban on butterfly bush forces nurseries to adapt

Statewide ban on butterfly bush forces nurseries to adapt

0710_ATS03Butterfly bushes love the Oregon rain — a little too much. These popular purple plants have become the bullies of wet Oregon regions, pushing out indigenous species and landing themselves on the noxious weed list. In response, Oregon became the only state to ban Buddleja Davidii in January.

Rather than dealing the industry a blow, the ban on butterfly bushes has given nurseries an opportunity to show off a few new tricks. Growers are filling the void by developing new butterfly bush varieties with an extremely low fertility rate. Oregon nurseries say they will sell these varieties as long as they earn the state’s stamp of approval. A few hybrids have already been approved for sale in Oregon.

“We knew this was coming, so it didn’t hurt,” says David Etchepare, manager at Dennis’ 7 Dees in Portland. Some growers can sell the plant out of state until the end of this year.

The low-seeding hybrids take a decade of breeding. They are already being sold in other states and doing very well, according to Peter Kruger, spokesman for Illinois-based Ball Horticulture, a major producer of the hybrids.

But Michelle Koeppe of Pistils Nursery in Portland says they probably won’t carry sterile varieties. “They aren’t very appropriate for the landscape and could just become another beast,” she says.

JOSEY BARTLETT