Akron removes milkweed and goldenrod from its list of prohibited pests

Akron beekeepers and backyard gardeners are buzzing with excitement following a recent city code update removing certain plants from Akron’s noxious weed list.

The amended ordinance, passed Monday by the Akron City Council, allows local gardeners to grow plants previously banned on private property, such as milkweed and goldenrod, which are essential to people’s prosperity. of pollinators.

Previous code was ‘unscientific’, harmed pollinator populations

The effort had gone on for years for experts like Michele Colopy, executive director of LEAD for Pollinators, an organization aimed at educating and advocating for the health and sustainability of native pollinators.

“It’s a small part of bringing this community into the practice of land sustainability so we can do things like urban agriculture,” Colopy said. “As science discovers more and more, it’s difficult and a slow process to modernize these things, but it’s vital that we support our monarchs and our native pollinators and our native plants.”

A monarch butterfly spreads its wings as clusters of butterflies gather to rest in Ohio in September 2020 during their annual 3,000 mile migration from Canada to Mexico.

Colopy and two others spoke in a public comment session at the March 14 council meeting to argue for what they called a much-needed update: The previous order was ‘outdated’ and “unscientific”.

“Akron’s list is kind of a hodgepodge of plants; it makes no sense to a biologist, ecologist or beekeeper,” Randy Mitchell, professor of biology at the University of Akron, said at the meeting. Many of the plants that are on the list are native Ohio plants and are part of our natural heritage. We want to encourage the wonderful plants we have here.

Milkweed flowers.

The previous code prohibited plants such as field daisies, goldenrod, dandelions, milkweed and more. The new ordinance aligns city policy with state guidelines, which are more fluid and regularly updated to reflect scientific findings. Now, many plants — with the exception of weeds like poison ivy and poison ivy — are allowed in resident yards.

Akron sits along the eastern route of monarch butterflies on their annual migration from Mexico to Canada and is often a last food source for the butterflies before they head north across Lake Erie. Other pollinators, such as bees, also depend on nectar from milkweed and other plants.

“These pollinators that are supported by these plants are important; they help us make food, they make our gardens successful, they give us tremendous beauty and great pleasure,” Mitchell said. “These are important parts of a healthy, natural ecosystem.”

New ordinance will allow small businesses to grow

Previous restrictions weren’t just bad for the environment, advocates say, but also for local businesses, including Emily Mueller’s.

“People are actually looking for goldenrod honey,” Summit County Beekeepers Association trustee Mueller said at Monday’s board meeting. Mueller also owns and operates Mueller Honeybee Rescue in Akron. “Small businesses like my own beekeepers are thriving on honey sales of those specific flowers that are actually on your list.”

A step towards the modernization of the city code

Ward 1 council member Nancy Holland, who took office last summer, said Colopy approached her the night she was sworn in. The two worked with other city officials, departments and attorneys over the past year to craft the legislative language that passed Monday night.

While Colopy sees this as a major victory for urban agriculture and environmental protection, Holland believes the move is a step toward an even bigger fight: modernizing city code.

“This is a dramatic cultural shift,” Holland said. “This represents a moment when the city embraces the idea that we are something more than an industrial city. There is more going on than that. It is a step towards having our laws truly and clearly reflect our values. “

Reporter Abbey Marshall is a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms. Learn more at reportforamerica.org. Contact her at [email protected]

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