Baby’s Breath: Pretty and evil

I’m talking about the plant (Gypsophila paniculata), not actual babies, BTW.
I was recently reminded that a lot of folks don’t know that Baby’s Breath is a nasty, invasive plant in the US. Oddly enough, it was because I bought soap.  They make this statement on their package:

“our hypo-allergenic bar soap …comes in 100% post consumer recycled packaging imbedded [sic] with Baby’s Breath seeds. Plant the carton in soil, water and watch your plants grow.”

Post consumer packaging–Yay!

KAAAAHN!

But the bit about planting Baby’s Breath–I think I can channel Kirk here for a minute: “NOOOOOOO!”

Please, do not do that.

This is what happens when people think about being green, but don’t think things all the way through.

Baby’s Breath is a plant originally from Siberia and Eastern Europe. It is changing Michigan’s dune ecosystem in destructive ways. Because it has a very deep taproot (up to 12 feet!!), it  stabilizes sand dunes and prevents them from the natural ebb and flow as seasons and storms pass.  This taproot also lets the plants outcompete native plants, many of which have disappeared from our dunes.

It is also invasive on grazing lands in the west, where it again outcompetes and takes over for native grasses.  You can see a map of its spread in North America here.

So: pretty and EVIL.

A wonderful resource on finding good (i.e, well-behaved native plants) for your garden is at PlantWise. They even have an “invasive translator” that provides alternative suggestions to invasive non-native garden plants. Check it out!

More info about the Great Lakes Barrens Ecosystem.

Oh, and if you’d like to contact Pure & Natural Soaps and tell them to STOP distributing invasive weed seed…they are apparently owned by Dial. Their contact phone number is listed on the package as 1-877-711-8188.

4 thoughts on “Baby’s Breath: Pretty and evil

  1. I wonder if consumers would be as crazy about messing with the plant if companies were made to use the UK name “Soap Wort” (though I think we already call a different plant that here in the US).

    Or, since most folks in the US seem to understand that crabgrass is a nuisance, we could mandate that the common name of all invasive species be amended with “Crab.” mmmmmm…. Crab Breath!

  2. Confusion reigns about green consumerism, land use policy, invasive species. We supported stopping state funded spraying in Willapa Bay (southwest WA state) for invasive spartina because of detriment to native oysters at the Green Festival, with its “green” products. This example of Gypsophila paniculata seems even more confusing. Love this article, but what I got is a queasy feeling of how Dial may market this to justify monoculture, poisons or bad land use practices, above and beyond the “green feeling.” Or is that a leap?
    I follow you on Twitter. Thanks

  3. Um, I think you are overanalyzing here. It’s just a company doing something stupid, and me saying that folks should: (a) not plant the seeds; and (b) tell the company they’re asshats for distributing invasive weed seeds.

    No other motives in sight :)

  4. I’m reminded of the time I went into the gift shop at the museum where I work and found packets of seed for planting a butterfly garden. I looked at the species list in the mix, and there it was. Teasel. At the site I help manage, we have spent hundreds of hours controlling teasel. The gift shop folks were very responsive and pulled it from the shelves that afternoon. We got no response after writing to the company that sold the seeds.

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