The world’s biggest online auction platforms, like eBay, boast all kinds of miscellany, including clothes, electronics, cars, and many an eccentric novelty item. Some websites also allow the trade of flowers and plants, offering users the chance to buy and sell botany from around the world.
It sounds innocuous—a niche trade that lets plant enthusiasts enjoy a wide spectrum of plant species without having to personally travel to other countries to find them. But a team of Swiss researchers warns that the plant trade may be much more harmful than it appears.* Turns out, online plant sales raise the risk of spreading invasive species to new regions.
Researchers led by Christoph Kueffer from the Institute of Integrative Biology tracked for 50 days the world’s online flora trade through eBay and nine other auction sites. Their findings, published recently in the journal Conservation Biology, show that 2,625 plant species were on sale over that period from 65 countries, and 510 of them were identified as an invasive species in at least one region of the world.
In addition, 35 of the plants are on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s list of 100 worst invasive species. Passionfruit was the most commonly sold invasive plant, offered by sellers 90 times a day.