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 From Editor-in-Chief
Charles B. Thomas

What the Texas White List
Means to You

What in the world is the Texas White List for aquatic plants?

It is the pending official State of Texas register of aquatic plants declared legal to own, possess, and grow. All aquatic plants not on the Texas White List will be illegal to own, possess, and grow within Texas.

Why have such a law?

Its purpose is to prevent invasive non-native-to-Texas plants from being in Texas and possibly causing environmental danger.

Historically, restrictive plant laws simply ban (blacklist) specific plants, making it easy to know what plants are banned. In contrast, the aquatic plant bill permits only approved plants to be owned, possessed, and grown in Texas. All other aquatics are prohibited.

Now the Texas legislature’s problem is determining, plant by plant, name by name, which aquatics to permit on the white list. Who is qualified to decide which plants to approve? Where do you find qualified experts who know the broad range of waterlilies, much less all the countless other aquatic plants? Without strong, knowledgeable voices speaking on behalf of water gardeners, it quickly becomes obvious that Texas water gardeners may find favorite aquatic plants outlawed. All non-listed varieties must be destroyed when the bill becomes law.

However, if you don’t live in Texas, this doesn’t concern you, right?

Wrong, sorry! Other states are looking to Texas as a model for their own white list legislation. For example, New York is studying a 128-page proposal to review all non-native plants and animals. Moreover, environmentalists in other states and countries are eyeing the Texas bill. Each state and country is different; plants dangerous in one place could be safe in another place.

Wherever you live, what happens in Texas is bound to happen in similar manner in your state or country. Remember, as stated above, once the bill becomes law, Texans must destroy all of their aquatic plants not on the white list.

Few people argue against the intent of the bill’s sponsors. The serious concern focuses on its specifics and reasonableness. For example, Texas authorities had no idea of the huge number of Nymphaea and Nelumbo cultivars. Grateful to Kit Knotts for the V-A/WGI lists of waterlilies and lotuses, Rolf Nelson astounded Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials with her extensive list of names. Rolf, representing a coalition led by the International Waterlily and Water Garden Society (IWGS) succeeded in gaining recognition of and appreciation for the vast diversity of water garden plants that deserve consideration for inclusion on the white list.

On September 17, TPWD’s Aquatic Habitat Enhancement Program Director, Dr. Earl Chilton, II, is speaking about the Texas White List at the 2010 IWGS Symposium in San Angelo, Texas. Concerned water gardeners, professionals and hobbyists alike, from many states and countries plan to make their views known to Dr. Chilton and the TPWD at that time.

What can you, the individual water gardener, do?

Keep informed through WGI and IWGS for developments. When white list legislation comes under consideration where you live, make sure your legislators know how important the issue is for you and fellow water gardeners. Make sure your pond suppliers know and stay updated about the white list that could adversely affect their businesses and customers.

As amateur and professional water gardeners working together with lawmakers, surely we can protect our precious environment without needlessly prohibiting harmless aquatic plants that we cherish.


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