ISN was recently asked to reevaluate Japanese barberry being on its list of "no sell" plants within the Go Beyond Program due to the development of a new cultivar that is supposed to be sterile and non-invasive. This variety, called the "Crimson Cutie", certainly does sound like the best of both worlds - a plant that doesn't spread...and deer will not eat it! The full description is as follows:
Crimson Cutie represents the first in a series of non-invasive Japanese barberries bred and tested by the University of Connecticut. Living up to its WorryFree collection name, Crimson Cutie will not produce nuisance seedlings or spread to unwanted areas. Approved for sale in New York State by the Department of Environmental Conservation. This replacement for Crimson Pygmy is excellent as an accent or foundation plant in addition to low hedge and border uses. Definitely not a favorite of deer.
ISN is always willing to reevaluate its priority species, especially when it comes to asking participants not to sell one - if there truly is a better (and safe!) alternative, as an organization, we feel it should be considered. Because Japanese barberry is currently a high priority invasive species, we decided to survey all Go Beyond Beauty participants to gather additional opinions on this somewhat sensitive plant subject. Nearly 50 businesses and individuals were polled regarding the new barberry cultivar - what is your opinion/concern? Should ISN remove it from the "no sell" list? Should ISN even have authority when it comes to regulating something that is considered "non-invasive"? There was varying response but the majority want us to wait and see what happens before changing anything.
There was some concern that such a new plant cannot be confirmed as "safe" without a proper observation period. Additionally, if "safe" barberries are still being sold, it will be increasingly difficult to distinguish between the invasive and non-invasive varieties when ISN is conducting site visits to determine necessary treatments. While Go Beyond Beauty has always run on the honor system and ISN completely trusts its participants to sell and buy the non-invasive cultivar, the process of identifying plants outside the program parameters becomes extremely complicated.
ISN agrees with the majority and has chosen to wait until further notice before adjusting the "no sell" list. That being said, this evaluation process will be ongoing and this decision may be adjusted in the future. Recently, the Midwest Invasive Plant Network (MIPN) released a short article on this topic that provides more examples supporting the decision ISN has made - scroll to the bottom of the article in the above link to learn more.