When Jim Bachrach of Apalachicolaís Main Street program came to me and asked for a list of native plants to be used in the downtown streetscape, I was delighted to hear that the committee had pledged to install environmentally friendly plantings downtown. Thus I was equally disappointed when I saw the choice of plant material on Avenue E.

Those little pink flowers are Mexican petunia (Ruellia brittoniana), a native of Mexico.

It is listed by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council as a Class One invasive and known to be especially aggressive in wetlands. It alters native plant communities by displacing native species and changing community structures or ecological functions. In other words, Mexican petunia invades wetlands and displaces native species. Its invasiveness is enhanced by its fast growth, prolific production of seeds, and an extensive root system.

Now the Main Street committee is not the first to introduce this bad actor into our local ecosystem. The blue form is running rampant in the alleys of the historic district already. But Main Streetís use of Ruella in their downtown planting shows a disregard for environmental issues and ignorance of what sort of plant would be desirable in a planting on a river bank. Anything planted in our downtown is guaranteed to spread to surrounding wetlands.

The Main Street Committee had an opportunity to do the right thing and set an example for the rest of the community by making the effort to use native plants. Sadly they chose not to do so.