Biological Invasions

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 323-335

First online:

From Desirable Ornamental Plant to Pest to Accepted Addition to the Flora? – the Perception of an Alien Tree Species Through the Centuries

  • Uwe StarfingerAffiliated withTU Berlin, Institut für Ökologie
  • , Ingo KowarikAffiliated withTU Berlin, Institut für Ökologie
  • , Michael RodeAffiliated withUniversität Hannover, Institut für Landschaftspflege und Naturschutz
  • , Hartwig SchepkerAffiliated withRampenstr. 16

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Prunus serotina, a forest tree of North American origin, was introduced to central Europe and planted for various purposes. In the course of the centuries it was regarded as a valuable timber tree by European foresters; subsequently, as a useful non-timber species in forestry, a forest pest, a controllable weed and, eventually, as a species we have to live with. All these perceived qualities served as motives for action by humans without seeking scientific evidence for them: millions of specimens of P. serotina were planted, later millions of euros were spent in attempts at control. The species, and its changing perception through time, may be an example of the need for science-based assessments as a basis for developing policies concerning non-native plants.

central Europe control exotic pest plant forestry impact nature conservation perception plant invasion Prunus serotina use of alien plants