Japanese barberry, a tick magnet, banned in Pennsylvania

Written by on December 8, 2021

Japanese barberry, a tick magnet, banned in Pennsylvania

By Megan Frank

December 8, 2021

The Japanese Barberry has been banned in Pennsylvania. (Photo | Pa. DCNR)

HARRISBURG, Pa. – A popular garden shrub has been banned in Pennsylvania. 

The Japanese barberry bush may be pretty to look at, but state officials say it’s a nursery for ticks.  The prickly shrub also spreads quickly, choking out native plants.  

Listen to the story.

“It’s very pretty this time of year because it turns red.  But on the downside, it spreads and it takes over the natural ecosystem.  It harbors black-legged ticks, which spread Lyme disease,” said Shannon Powers, spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture

According to a multi-year forestry study, barberry has dense foliage and retains higher humidity levels, which ticks love.  

“This plant in particular is hurting the agriculture industry more broadly and is posing a threat to human health,” said Powers. 

According to the National Park Service, the shrub was brought to North America in 1875. 

Powers says it’s rare for a commercially-sold plant to be placed on the “Noxious Weed List.”  There are a little over 30 banned plants, like giant hogweed, which can cause skin blisters, and tree of heaven, a favorite nesting spot for spotted lanternfly.

The Department of Agriculture says all sales of the shrub must stop by 2023.  

People who have the shrub in their gardens are encouraged to remove and dispose of the plant.  

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