Invasive plant dispersals have been strongly affected by the trade and distribution of horticultural plants, primarily by ornamental plants (Anderson and Ascher, 1993; Groves, 1998; Mack, 2003; Mack and Erneberg, 2002; Randall and Marinelli, 1996; Reichard and White, 2001). Many characteristics of today’s horticulture industry contribute to increasing the risks of introducing new invasive species into the environment and the likelihood that invasive introductions naturalize (Anderson et al., 2006a, 2006b; Galatowitsch et al., 1999). More than 50% of invasive plants are ornamentals (Randall and Marinelli, 1996). In general, the horticulture industry selects plants that require little maintenance, have high environmental tolerance, wide adaptability, and consistent performance (Anderson et al., 2006a; Mack, 2005). Consequently, they can be grown worldwide.
Because the ultimate objective of commercial horticultural is to satisfy the desires of the final consumer (Schaffner et al., 1998), their demand for novel plants drives the industry (Gagliardi and Brand, 2007). Retailers are the intermediaries who, through packaging, transporting, etc., can add value to the products supplied by growers. Although retailer and wholesaler decisions affect the dispersal of invasive or native horticultural plants, consumer decisions are also important and cannot be ignored. Previous economic studies on invasive plants like Kim et al. (2007) and Moffitt and Osteen (2006) focus on governmental and institutional control of the invasion of certain plants, whereas others like Adam et al. (2007) focus on the impact of invasive plants on economic and recreation values. Less effort has been devoted to studying consumer perceptions and valuation of invasive plants. Kelley et al. (2005) studied consumer awareness and knowledge of invasive plants in Philadelphia and found distinct consumer segments; less than half (41.3%) thought laws should be passed to prevent the sale of non-native exotic plants. Peters et al. (2006) conducted a survey with horticultural industry professionals and found the majority (62%) felt that the invasive plant issue was very important with 89% directing their customers away from potentially invasive plants. Another 76% of respondents indicated that they were responsible for educating customers about invasive ornamental plants. Reichard (2005) advocated research to identify the impact of biological invasions to provide scientific support for regulations banning invasive species.
For native plants, Waterstrat et al. (1998) surveyed the U.S. Southern Nurserymen’s Association members about their perception of native plants. They found that almost half had increased the quantity and variety of native plants that they purchased and perceived an overall consumer interest in native plants. Brzuszek et al. (2007) explored landscape architectural use of regional native plants in the southeastern United States and found that the designers use a significant amount of regional native plants in their project specifications. The architects also reported that local species were better suited to difficult or unique site conditions. The aforementioned studies suggest that there is a potential to expand the production and marketing of native plants.
Previous studies have shown that consumer demand for product-stewardship or environmentally conscious products and business practices is rapidly rising. Markets consist of different groups of consumers who have different preferences and attitudes toward environment-related product attributes. Consumers with environmental concerns are willing to purchase and pay a premium for environmentally friendly products. These consumers presumably bring profits to companies who conduct environmentally friendly practices (Laroche et al., 2001; Russo and Fouts, 1997). Several studies have investigated the market segmentation for horticulture products and explored consumer attitudes toward environmental issues. For example, Yue et al. (2009) investigated consumer attitudes toward organic apples. In their study, they clustered consumers into three groups based on the difference in bidding prices for different products. They found that consumers in the “organic-oriented” segment were more concerned about the environment than those in the “conventional-oriented” segment. Hall et al. (2010) explored the profile of the consumer segments that preferred environmental-friendly products. They segmented the consumers into seven groups and found that consumers in the “environmentally conscious” segment showed concern about the environment and were more likely to recycle their products.
Yue et al. (2011) studied regular consumer demand for and attitudes toward native plants and consumer willingness to pay (WTP) for ornamental plants with native and invasive labeling. The results show that, on average, consumers were willing to pay a price premium for plants that were labeled as non-invasive and native and they discounted plants labeled as invasive. Our study is an extension of Yue et al. (2011) and aims to investigate market segmentation among consumers in terms of their preferences and WTP for native and invasive plants. It also explores how consumers in different market segments differ in their sociodemographics and attitudes toward native/invasive plants and invasive plant policies.
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