SciSun: Final Bid   Leave a comment

Online auction sites are great places to find just about anything anyone could ever want, need, or think they need: Books and magazines no longer published; designer watches, bags, and accessories at a fraction of their retail price (just don’t ask where, exactly, they came from); replacement parts for cars and appliances – or entire cars and appliances; hard-to-find collectibles (and many not so hard-to-find, but expensive anyway); even bulk lots of storage and packaging supplies, to, we assume, pack and store all the items bought and sold at auctions. There’s so much for sale, almost no one is asking if some things should be sold – or what happens when the speed and convenience of our ever-smaller world results in environmental hazards that, once unleashed, may never be contained again.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool just released the results of a 50-day experiment in which they monitored every plant for sale through ten of the worlds most popular online auctions. While it was no surprise to find over 2,600 listings, of those over 500 are known to be invasive; and most shocking, within that group 35 are considered among the worst invasive species known. Throughout the study unique plant species were newly listed for sale every day, often identical species listed by different sellers in different countries. And, being the scientific scientists they are, searches were only performed under species scientific names, not common names; so it’s probable there are many, many more plants for sale than the study identified.

One of the Department of Agriculture's Beagle Brigade Inspectors (it's a real thing), signals a piece of luggage that smells like it could contain illegal plants.  Hopefully it's just a pair of someones dirty socks.

One of the Department of Agriculture’s Beagle Brigade Inspectors (it’s a real thing), signals a piece of luggage that smells like it could contain illegal plants. Hopefully it’s just a pair of someones dirty socks.

While due to privacy concerns no information can be gathered on the number of actual sales associated with these listings, it’s safe to believe the sellers would not be trying to sell something that doesn’t have buyers. And while it’s against the laws of most countries – including the USA – to import or transport non-native biological specimens (plants, flowers, seeds, leaves and parts included), no one is going to stop and check every package coming through the mail; and there are fewer laws regulating what items are shipped from a country, compared to what’s (technically) allowed to come into a country (the ‘out of sight out of mind’ rule). So every day, the Passionfruit (Passiflora edulis) – highly invasive in tropical areas – might be purchased and planted by a Florida retiree looking to add a colorful vine to his backyard; a Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus), classified in the US as an invasive might show up in someones landscape – or neighborhood vacant lot; and throughout the world people bid on the most frequently listed species of all, Desert Rose (Adenium obesum), native to Africa but its behavior and living requirements largely unknown to the typical North American gardener and auction-bidder. As has been shown time and again, once an invasive species becomes established it’s impossible to completely be rid of them and restore the original ecology (tumbleweeds, we’re looking at you). Through the continued virtually unregulated global trade of what many consider ‘harmless’ garden flowers, the result could be a final bid for our native environments.


Michonne Says: If the flowers are bad I don’t want to eat them. But how would you know they’re bad? Maybe they look bad or smell bad or have spiney parts on them. I’ll just try to eat just the plants I know. It’s too much to think about.

Posted October 11, 2015 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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