ASHEVILLE – The Southern Appalachian Cooperative Weed Management Partnership is pleased to present Carolina Native Nursery and Growing Native Nursery with the partnership’s first “Forest Friendly” certificates in recognition of regional nurseries and retailers that focus on growing and selling only native or non-invasive plants.

The presentation was Oct. 23 at the Asheville Botanical Gardens, 151 W.T. Weaver Boulevard.

Business owners Sadie Adams, of Growing Native Nursery, and Bill Jones, of Carolina Native Nursery, received the awards.

The Southern Appalachian Cooperative Weed Management Partnership (SACWMP) is a diverse partnership of environmental and recreational organizations, businesses and government agencies, all of whom address the growing problem that invasive exotic plants pose for our mountain region.

Butterflies love purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), a lovely native, non-invasive alternative to a plant such as the butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii).

These plants were introduced in earlier decades, both deliberately and accidentally, and have escaped into areas of our public lands. Invasive exotic plants out-compete native plants for space, sunlight, water, and nutrients, often causing a decline in biodiversity. They can also take over and destroy native food sources, leaving wildlife with food that provides little to no nutritional value for their needs.

Bob Gale, ecologist and public lands director with the Western North Carolina Alliance (WNCA), and Lindsay Majer, environmental planner with Equinox Environmental Consultation and Design, will make the presentation on Tuesday. Both are longtime partners of SACWMP and coordinate the administration and collaborative activities of the partnership with John Odell of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Also participating in the presentation will be Gary Kauffman, ecosystems director with the U.S. Forest Service’s National Forests in North Carolina office. Most of SACWMP’s invasive plant control and restoration work occurs along the Appalachian Trail within the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest.

“WNCA is really happy to know that there are nurseries right here in the mountains that care about the type of plants people buy for their yards and the impacts these have in natural areas,” Gale said. “WNCA works extensively on public lands and we’ve seen how exotic invasive species have degraded native habitats. Bill and Sadie understand this and have responded with appropriate alternatives for the consumer market”.

Majer is one of the founding members of SACWMP and has extensive experience in land planning and ecological restoration.

“These nurseries have shown that growing native plants are both economical and desirable to homeowners,” she said. “Equinox’s landscape architects can rely on these two nurseries for a wide range of beautiful, native plants that fit in a landowner’s yard, and with the surrounding landscape and forest.”

Odell says that protecting native biodiversity is “the foremost resource management goal of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. We have great admiration for Forest Friendly nurseries that discourage the use of invasive plants in the landscape and highlight the benefits of using native plants in the yard and garden. When people carry these values onto the Trail, it leads to greater appreciation of the unique ecosystems surrounding the Appalachian Trail and also a sense of responsibility to protect the Trail corridor from non-native plant invasions.”

SACWMP is also working with a big box retail chain to show how native and non-invasive exotic plants can be substituted for the invasive exotic plants currently being sold by the company.

The Southern Appalachian Cooperative Weed Management Partnership includes The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Equinox Environmental Conservation and Design, Inc., National Forests in North Carolina, National Park Service, North Carolina Department of Transportation, North Carolina State Forestry Division and the Western North Carolina Alliance.

Learn more at http://www.sacwmp.org/.