AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine residents and businesses sending trees, wreaths, or other decorative plant material around the country this holiday season can save money and prevent product loss by noting important plant health regulations enforced by other states, according to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF).
“Shippers should be aware of the many state laws and regulations regarding the movement of plants and forest products,” warned Gary Fish, State Horticulturist. “Many states closely monitor shipments to prevent introduction of invasive insects and plant diseases. By planning ahead, Maine shippers can speed up deliveries in this time-sensitive industry,” said Fish.
This year, changes to the federal gypsy moth program may present a challenge to shippers in northern Maine who were previously not required to comply with gypsy moth regulations. Gypsy moth egg masses (see photo below) can be found on a wide range of outdoor items including Christmas trees. Christmas tree growers that ship trees outside the gypsy moth quarantine area (see map) must have a compliance agreement with USDA-Plant Protection and Quarantine and inspect their trees for egg masses before shipment. Wreaths and other holiday decorations assembled with branches that are less than ½ inch in diameter do not require a compliance agreement; however, they do need to be inspected. Contact the Maine USDA-PPQ office at 207-848-0000 to set up an inspection or inquire about compliance agreements.
Advice for wreath and tree shippers:
- Import regulations can vary from state to state; shippers should check destination state regulations before sending plant material. Find contact information for the destination state at nationalplantboard.org/membership
- Carefully inspect plant material before packaging, especially shipments headed to California, to make sure they are free of insects such as scales, egg masses or other pest damage.
- Clearly label packages containing holiday plant material, beginning with the statement, “Grown in Maine,” followed by the county of origin and the name and address of the shipper.
- Labels should also indicate the contents of packages, including the different types of greenery, nuts, fruits and cones used to decorate wreaths.
“Import requirements for cut trees and holiday decorations including greenery, ornamental nuts and fruit exist to protect regional agriculture and natural resources from the risk of plant pests,” Fish explained. “An insect or plant disease that occurs in Maine could potentially be invasive in other states. Unfortunately, despite the quality of Maine products, some shippers have learned about these regulations the hard way and have had shipments delayed, impounded or destroyed. We want to prevent any losses by getting the word out now,” said Fish.
An informational sheet, “Know State Regulations When shipping Wreaths and Trees,” is available on the web at www.maine.gov/dacf/php/horticulture/wreaths.shtml.
Shippers with questions are invited to call: (207) 287-3891 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about gypsy moth compliance agreements contact the Maine USDA-PPQ office at 207-848-0000. For more information about the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, go to: www.maine.gov/dacf.
–Gary Fish, Maine DACF