- Importing Aquarium Plants
by nfrank-at-parsifal.nando.net (Neil Frank) (Mon, 19 Jun 95)
- Importing Aquarium Plants
by clc-at-hdc.hha.dk (CLAUS CHRISTENSEN) (Wed, 21 Jun 1995)
- importing plants
by JDAVIS-at-bio.tamu.edu (Mon, 1 Jul 1996)
- Shipping Plants and Sig Files (again)
by krandall-at-world.std.com (Karen A Randall) (Fri, 4 Oct 1996)
- Import Laws
by Doug Valverde <75051.160/compuserve.com> (Sat, 23 May 1998)
- "Mailing" plants
by Dave Gomberg <gomberg/wcf.com> (Thu, 20 Aug 1998)
- "Mailing" plants
by Neil Frank <nfrank/mindspring.com> (Sun, 23 Aug 1998)
- Shipping Plants to Canada
by "James Purchase" <jpurch/interlog.com> (Thu, 1 Jun 2000)
- Bagging plants
by Dave Gomberg <gomberg/wcf.com> (Mon, 20 Mar 2000)
- RE: Plants by Mail
by "James Purchase" <jpurch/interlog.com> (Sun, 5 Mar 2000)
- Best way package plants for shipping?
by Chuck Gadd <cgadd/cfxc.com> (Fri, 25 Aug 2000)
- Tropica exporting to USA
by "Arturo Giacosa" <agiacosa/hotmail.com> (Mon, 18 Sep 2000)
by nfrank-at-parsifal.nando.net (Neil Frank)
Date: Mon, 19 Jun 95
Erik Olson wrote:
>Lastly, along the lines of the recent posting by Len Trigg, anyone an
>expert on US agriculture import laws or know where I could look up info
>on important, say, uh, plants from, oh just to pick a country at random,
>New Zealand. :) I am very interested in helping get these fascinating
>plants into the US!
The following information was published in _The Aquatic Gardener_ (V6n2),
March 1993; and was supplied by Susan Irwin of Lynden, WA.
To import plants into the U.S., a Phytosanitary Certificate (PC) is
required. The PC is isued by the federal government of the country where the
plants have been gown. THis serves as both a certificate of origin and an
inspection certificate. Inpector will require that you supply scientifc
names of the plants you wisht ot export. Most countries require that PC be
dated within 14 days of shipment.
An Import Permit (IP) is also required for shipments of thirteen or more
items, except that no IP is required for shipments of enterable plants from
Canada, or shipments of 12 or fewer enterable items. There is a list of
prohibited species: Azolla pinnata, Eichornia azurea, Hydrilla verticillata,
Hygrophila polysperma, Ipomoea aquatica, Lagarosiphon major, Limnophila
sessiliflora, Monochoria hastata, M. vaginalis, Sagittaria sagittifolia,
Salivinia auriculata, S. biloba, S. herzogii, S. molesta, Sparganium erectum
and Stratioties aloides.
To Import plants into N.Z., PC is required and IP probably required.
Some countries are more sensible :-). In Denmark, France and Germany,
aquatic plants for aquarium use are unrestricted and in Great Britain,
aquarium plants from EEC are also unrestricted.
by clc-at-hdc.hha.dk (CLAUS CHRISTENSEN)
Date: Wed, 21 Jun 1995
Neil Frank (Susan Irwin) wrote:
> To import plants into the U.S., a Phytosanitary Certificate (PC) ...
> An Import Permit (IP) is also required for shipments .......
> Some countries are more sensible :-). In Denmark, France
> and Germany, aquatic plants for aquarium use are unrestricted
> and in Great Britain, aquarium plants from EEC are also
It is true that we in Denmark are more sensible, but we are not
unrestricted. All producers that wishes to export products from one
EEC-member to another in EEC is under strict control. As an
example I can mention how the company where I work, Tropica
Aquarium Plants in Denmark, operates in this matter:
The Danish Ministry and The Agriculture Plant Directorate will
come several times a month on an unexpected visit (2-4 persons).
The entire nursery 10.000 m2 (100 600 US ft2) will be thoroughly
searched for pests (insects, bacteria, virus etc.) and plant diseases.
If they find any pests it will be compulsory to get rid of them, and
any export or sale of the plants concerned will be prohibited until
the pests have been exterminated.
Regarding export across the borders of the EEC the individual
shipments will be checked and provided with a Phytosanitary
Certificate. This certificate will ensure that no plant species will be
shipped to countries where they are regarded as a danger for the
nature. Any professionals and aquarists should in principle be
pleased to have a set of rules like these. It ensures healthy plants
and the use of correct scientific names. With these arrangements
Tropica is sending plants all over the world (app. 30 countries
including New Zealand, Japan and Canada) - except the USA that
has certain claims about import of aquarium plants.
The USA demands that any aquarium plant shall be free of any
growing media, which unfortunately means that plants collected in
the nature in for example Africa, South America, Sri Lanka etc. or
plants grown in Singapore are free to be imported. I have experi
enced through several journeys that these plants quite often are
infected by diseases and pests.
On the other hand aquarium plants grown hydropinical in sterile
growingmedia (rockwool) can not be send to the USA. This is why
American aquarists cannot buy aquarium plants from Tropica or
from other producers in Europe that use the same methods. For the
nature and the planthealth in general this seems a bit odd.
If there should be any receivers on this list that have more knowl
edge or information on this subject, it could be interesting to hear
about it - maybe there has been some recent changes?
Claus Christensen (Tropica Aquarium Plants - Denmark)
Date: Mon, 1 Jul 1996
I have an interesting story to tell you all. I was in the Netherlands a
few years back and I brought back a bunch of plants with me (all cactus
and succulents). The process that I had to do was this:
1. Get an agricultural import permit.
2. Enter the US through an ag import area (like JFK, NOI, LAX).
3. Have NO soil on the roots
4. Import nothing that is on the CITES list on endangered species.
That is all that there is to it. It might sound like a hastle, but it
really isn't. If you are making a trip to Europe and are planning to
bring plants back it is better to be prepared then have to throw
everything away at customs. And SOME custom areas in other
International airports will allow you to bring plants in if they have no
soil, you have the proper permits, and there is no soil (so roots can be
inspected for nematodes). A caveat...it takes about 4 months to get a
permit so plan early :)
by krandall-at-world.std.com (Karen A Randall)
Date: Fri, 4 Oct 1996
Subject: Shipping Plants
> I would not suggest sending plants in ziplock bags. It may work
> to leak.I think it may be better to package them as you might se
> water of course but in an inflated bag, securely fastened (knott
> rubber band). I would even double up on the bags. This would all
> for the plants.
After shipping a lot of plants over a period of years, I'd like to
say that the best way to ship plants is wrapped in wet newspaper,
then placed in plastic fish bags _without_ excess water or air
space. The firmer and more stable you can make the bundle, the
less damage you'll find upon opening the packeage on the other
A few small plants can then be placed in a bubble pack envelope or
a mailing tube. For a moderate number of plants I use styro
vaccine boxes from my veterinarian. Large quantities can be
packed in standard fish boxes.
by Doug Valverde <75051.160/compuserve.com>
Date: Sat, 23 May 1998
>> What about plants? Does anyone know where I can find import
restrictions/laws about bringing plants back? <<
Call the USDA office at the airport nearest you. You cannot bring back
anything on the banned list of either the United States or the state you
are in. They must go through customs and will most likely be kept 24-48
hours before they will be shipped to you. Helps if you have a UPS or Fedex
account and a prefilled out shipping blank.
All plants must be bare root, no rockwool and no soil. They will be
inspected for various parasites and if clean will then be shipped to you.
You must fill out various forms and list in latin each species you plan on
bringing back, plus they will request each species be packed and identified
separately. Takes several weeks to get all the paperwork done.
I will give you fair warning. Do not call customs and let them tell you
that you can bring them in labeled only. I made that mistake and ended up
with two large boxes of plants, one for me and one for Karen, from Tropica
that were confiscated. About six months before that I had 5 boxes of Cuban
cigars confiscated so I keep picturing some customs guy hanging around
looking at my plants in his tanks as he contentedly puffs away on my
cigars. They are picky so be careful to do it right.
Oh just for grins, in addition to bettas and discus (the latter are also in
Vietnam) you can also get some very rare catfish that are not listed on the
CITES list but are nonetheless very rare and valuable.
Hope that helps.
by Dave Gomberg <gomberg/wcf.com>
Date: Thu, 20 Aug 1998
Someone raised the issue of mailing plants. Here's what Neil Frank and I
have learned over the past 2-3 years (more than you wanted to know):
1. Clean plants carefully free of all dead material before shipping.
Otherwise, it rots and turns slimy and is harder than heck to get rid of
later when the plant is more fragile.
2. Pack plants in only a tiny bit of water, in a plastic bag which is
"flattened". Imagine placing a soaking wet plant in a plastic bag,
placing same flat on a table, then placing a full daily newspaper gently on
same to drive out air. Now remove the paper and pack the bag into a carton.
3. Fill the inner carton pretty full of bags. So if you are only sending
one small bag, use a very small inner carton.
4. Depends on service used:
a. USPS Use priority mail (2-5 days). Ship on Monday. Pack inner
carton in an outer carton that provides some insulation inbetween. Use
peanuts for packing material (insulation). Bubble wrap will also do.
Anything that is light and free.
b. FedEx Use two-day air. Ship on Monday or Tuesday. Ship the inner
carton without an outer carton because FedEx charges dimensional weight
(means you pay for at least 1.3# for each gallon of volume, regardless of
weight if weight is less) If climate is adverse (mid-Summer or cold of
winter or bad storm at one end or the other) consider one day service.
Check the rates.
There is a clear optimization between less insulation and one day service
vs. more insulation and two day service. I myself prefer the faster
service if the costs are close to each other.
Feel free to ask any questions that come to mind.
Dave Gomberg, San Francisco mailto:gomberg-at-wcf.com
by Neil Frank <nfrank/mindspring.com>
Date: Sun, 23 Aug 1998
>From: Dave Gomberg <gomberg-at-wcf.com>
Here's what Neil Frank and I
>have learned over the past 2-3 years (more than you wanted to know):
Dave: Since, you mentioned my name, I thought I would mention what I
>1. Clean plants carefully free of all dead material before shipping.
>Otherwise, it rots and turns slimy and is harder than heck to get rid of
>later when the plant is more fragile.
I just take the plants out of my tanks. there is no dead material to remove
>2. Pack plants in only a tiny bit of water, in a plastic bag which is
>"flattened". Imagine placing a soaking wet plant in a plastic bag,
>placing same flat on a table, then placing a full daily newspaper gently on
>same to drive out air. Now remove the paper and pack the bag into a carton.
Only add a few mL of tank water into the bag with the wet plant. Don't
flatten the bag , just place the open bag in shipping box inside a large
plastic bag (e.g. trash bag). Only flatten the bags when doing a large
shippment that requires maximizing available space. Otherwise, allow the
bags to loosely fill the space. Rubber band or even tape close the outer
trash bag to keep from wetting the cardboard box -- In case the shipper can
read the words "TOP OF BOX" .
>3. Fill the inner carton pretty full of bags. So if you are only sending
>one small bag, use a very small inner carton.
This is only a problem if the shipper will charge according to dimensional
wt-- see fedEx below.
>4. Depends on service used:
> a. USPS Use priority mail (2-5 days). Ship on Monday. Pack inner
>carton in an outer carton that provides some insulation inbetween. Use
>peanuts for packing material (insulation). Bubble wrap will also do.
>Anything that is light and free.
I do not use the above method. In freezing weather, I have used styrofoam
fish boxes. Other times, I use a single heavy cardboard box. I have never
used extra insulation, but it can't hurt.
> b. FedEx Use two-day air. Ship on Monday or Tuesday. Ship the inner
>carton without an outer carton because FedEx charges dimensional weight
>(means you pay for at least 1.3# for each gallon of volume, regardless of
>weight if weight is less) If climate is adverse (mid-Summer or cold of
>winter or bad storm at one end or the other) consider one day service.
I like the 2-day service. Plants are resilient. They can be in bags for
several days. I try not to ship during extreme temps.
>Check the rates.
- --Neil F.
by "James Purchase" <jpurch/interlog.com>
Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2000
Paul K. asked:
"James, do you think that Canadian Customs would accept a phytosanitary
certificate from a U.S. state, instead of the federal phytosanitary
certificate? I found out that getting a federal phytosanitary certificate
will cost me $40.00, but the State of Mississippi will inspect my plants
for free. (My tax dollars are getting me something tangible at least on
the state level.)"
I can't say much with 100% certainty on this, as I work for the taxation
side of the Canada Customs & Revenue Agency (formerly known as the
Department of National Revenue or informally as Revenue Canada)) and not the
Customs side, but I am pretty good at reading the regulations - from the
regulations, it isn't really a "Customs" issue - if the plants originated in
the United States, they can enter Canada without any worry of hassle from
Customs, so long as they are not on the very short "prohibited" list and as
there is no duty on things like this crossing our mutual border.
This is the "prohibited" list:
*Aquatic Plants - Myriophyllum spp., Trapa spp., Elodea densa (= Anacharis
densa, = Egeria densa) and Hydrilla verticilata are prohibited entry. Other
aquatic plants do not require a Permit to Import.
The need for paperwork and inspections comes from the Canadian Food
Inspection Agency (yet another set of civil servants). The following URL
complete details of what is needed. As you can see, they are most concerned
over agricultural and forestry products - the ornamental aquatic plant trade
is given little thought.
URL covers true aquatic plants coming INTO Canada. From this document, it
can safely be said that:
1. An Import Permit in NOT required if the plants originated in the
continental U.S.A. If the Canadian importer is trying to bring in plants
from a country other than the USA, they must get an Import Permit from the
Plant Protection Division FIRST.
The directive which coveres Import Permits may be found online at
For issues specific to the United States, the following directive applies:
2. A Phytosanitary Certificate IS required for all importations of aquatic
plants, plant parts and/or seeds. The full scientific name of each plant
must be listed on the phytosanitary certificate.
Here is the text of the regulation:
"A PHYTOSANITARY CERTIFICATE is a document that certifies that the plants or
plant products described have been inspected according to appropriate
procedures and are considered to be free from quarantine pests and
practically free from other injurious pests. This certificate must be issued
no later than 14 days before shipment to Canada and is issued by an official
in the country of origin. Phytosanitary Certificates are addressed to the
Plant Protection Division in Ottawa and must conform with the current
phytosanitary regulations of Canada."
No mention (or distinction) appears to exisit between whether this
certificate is issued by a federal or a state authority - it just refers to
"an official". I assume that in the United States (like Canada) state
officials can be just as "officous" as federal ones. <g>
The Directive which covers Canadian requirements for Phytosanitary
Certificates may be found online at
3. The Canadian authorities are not very concerned about whether TRUE
AQUATIC PLANTS were grown in sterile media or soil, as both are exempt from
the provisions of the Canadian Sterile Growing Medium Program.
4. ALL incoming shipments of aquatic plants are subject to inspection.
5. ANY incoming shipment which fails to pass inspection either due to the
presence of pests or poor or incomplete documentation is refused entry [end
The USDA has a similar amount of information available online as the
Canadian Food Inspection Agency does, but it is mainly intended for
importers of plant products into the US, and not really designed for
Like the Canadian regulations, a strong line is drawn between commercial
enterprises and individuals importing a few plants for their personal use
(i.e., a lot less red tape for individuals).
To be perfectly honest...... I wouldn't worry about a few plants being
tucked into a padded mailer and being sent thru the mail to a buddy in
Canada. Neither of you is likely to get arrested. But if they are VALUABLE
or RARE plants, I would recommend that you follow the rules and get the
Phytosanitary Certificate from your local State authorities and label the
shipment appropriately. You say that the Certificate is free, and a properly
certified shipment can clear the regulators at the border in 3 hours.
I'm sorry to go on about this issue, but I think that it is an important one
for the members of the APD to know about.
Now, back to bleach........ <g>
by Dave Gomberg <gomberg/wcf.com>
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2000
At 03:48 PM 3/13/2000 -0500, Alysoun McLaughlin asked:
>>After the last PVAS auction, a question came up about the "proper" way to
>>bag a plant.
Here are my answers worked out after MANY shipments from Neil Frank for
1. For long-distance shipment, pack the plants in plastic bags with a few
ml of water. Very very gently compress the plant and bag to drive out
excess air. Lay the GENTLY flattened bags in a sturdy paper box which will
just barely hold them and ship.
2. For auction, reinflate the bags with breath and seal inflated bag with
rubber band. Label and auction. It would be best for this purpose to use
the extra clear bags, but they command quite a premium.
These tactics are easy and quite effective. We saw no evidence of any
damage once we got it right. If you use newspaper it must be picked off
which is quite a job. It is not necessary, or even useful as far as I can
tell (unless you work for a shipping company and are trying to drive up the
Dave Gomberg, San Francisco mailto:email@example.com
Jobe's Fern and Palm Spikes FREE http://www.wcf.com/pam
by "James Purchase" <jpurch/interlog.com>
Date: Sun, 5 Mar 2000
A comment was recently made about the condition of newly shipped plants:
> For those folks complaining about the condition of plants they
> got in the mail...
> Realize there is a trade off here! I have never yet received
> plants in the mail
> that weren't "half dead". What did I do with them? I PLANTED
> them. Within a
> week they were showing an awesome turn around and looking good.
A few weeks ago, I "discovered" that Belyjo plants were in Montreal (hey, it
was news to me). I visited their web site and liked what I saw but there
wasn't much information regarding which specific plants that they produce.
They also don't do "retail" mail order - they sell to stores and they
currently don't have retail accounts here in Toronto. Several of the other
members of my local plant group who were familiar with Belyjo plants told me
that they were of generally good quality but that they don't have anything
really rare or unusual. Toronto is pretty well served, plant wise, by
several good retail stores - we can get a very wide variety of quality
plants on a regular basis (luck us, I guess).
But my curiosity got the better of me and I contacted Belyjo via e-mail,
telling them about our local plant group and asking for further information
about their company and their plants. Within a week of my initial contact, a
UPS delivery guy was at my door with a VERY professionally packaged box,
full of Belyjo's plants (FREE OF CHARGE!). When I picked myself up off of
the floor, and opened the box, I found a group of very clean, very well
grown bunch plants and several potted plants (in rockwool). There was also a
plant on a rock and another one attached to a piece of driftwood. Nothing
rare or unusual, but not a snail in sight (and I LOOKED. Closely.) The
plants were packaged in wet newspaper and then double bagged in plastic bags
with bubble wrap around everything and then encased in a strong styrofoam
shipping container. When first placed in an aquarium, they looked a little
"limp". Within 24 hours, they were the nicest, freshest, most attractive
plants in the tank (maybe that says something about my abilities.....) - but
the point is that they REALY rebounded nicely, so I don't think you can
judge the quality of a company's plants by how they look when you open the
box - put them back in water and let them recover before you pass judgement.
by Chuck Gadd <cgadd/cfxc.com>
Date: Fri, 25 Aug 2000
> What is the best way to mail java ferns? I'm guessing that you just
> wrap them in saturated wet paper, put them in a plastic bag and seal
> it up with some air in it, and mail via "priority mail" or "first
> class" in a rigid but not necessarily sturdy box. Is that about it?
That's the technique I use for all my plant mailings. For java fern, you could
probably just stick it in a ziplock, drop that into an envelope, and mail it.
Java fern is about as tough as plants gets.
by "Arturo Giacosa" <agiacosa/hotmail.com>
Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2000
This is a very interesting thread. Many US aquarists have for many years
been frustrated about not having access to Tropica's high-quality plants.
In 1997 I worked with Claus of Tropica in order to get the USDA to change
its rules or make an exception for Tropica. I thought some of you may be
interested in what I found.
The rules regarding the importation of plants clearly do not allow plants
that have their roots wrapped or covered in something that would prevent
easy inspection. This is THE sticking point with the USDA.
Tropica achieves its high-quality standards in part through the use of
rockwool. It provides an excellent medium for plant roots. As a result,
all of Tropica's plants "grow-out" in it. It would be economically
prohibitive for Tropica to assign workers to carefully remove the rockwool
from the plants prior to exportation to the US.
What Claus was attempting to do is qualify the Tropica nursery for a special
certification (phyto-somthing or other) that would pre-approve Tropica
plants for shipment to the US even though the roots were not visible. This
is done by meeting many sanitary requirements and passing many very
complicated tests. As I recall, even though Tropica is a state-of-the-art
facility, they still needed to make some changes in how they did things.
Moreover, this special certificate was given on a species-by-species basis.
Therefore, Tropica would need to meet these requirements for each one of the
species it intended to send to the US. This would result in a large expense
In the end, the USDA really made it very difficult for Tropica to meet its
requirements without a VERY large outlay of capital. So, considering this
expense, plus the fact that they would then compete against all of the US
aquatic plant farmers, the profitability of selling to the US would be
suspect at best.
Frankly, from a business point of view, I agree with Tropica's decision not
to export to the US. Currently, the expense is too high and the market too
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