Distribution: Originally a native of Europe, loosestrife was introduced to the northeastern United States and Canada in the 1800’s and has since spread westward to Minnesota and southward to Virginia. It prefers wet areas in low elevations and grows in ditches irrigation canals, riparian areas and wetlands. It has been used to stop both internal and external bleeding, and sap extracted from the leaves can be taken to control dysentery. Habitat and Ecology Native to Eurasia, purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) now occurs in almost every state of the US. This highly invasive plant was likely introduced when its seeds were included in soil used as ballast in European sailing ships and discarded in North America. Also, purple loosestrife may lead to a Leaves: sessile (without stalks), up to four inches long, lance-shaped, with heart-shaped bases, somewhat clasping stem, oppositely arranged, sometimes in whorls of three, turn red at the end of the growing season. Fruits: small capsule. Purple loosestrife flowers in July and August in most of Connecticut. Controlling the spread of purple loosestrife is crucial to protecting vital fish, wildlife and native plant habitat. Purple loosestrife is a very hardy perennial which can rapidly degrade wetlands, diminishing their value for wildlife habitat. The plant can tolerate shallow water depths, but optimal growth is attained in moist soil habitats. Dense growth along shoreland areas makes it difficult to access open water. The stems of Purple Loosestrife are square in cross-section. Purple loosestrife has been declared a noxious weed in 32 states. Some wildlife will eventually leave to find better habitat but the native plants and insects that can't move are killed by this invasion. Wetlands – Audubon Society Nature Guide. Habitat Purple loosestrife is a wetland plant native to Eurasia and most of central and northern Europe with extensions into the Mediterranean region stretching from the Iberian Peninsula to the Balkan Peninsula and North Africa. If herbicides are used, they are most effective when sprayed in the late summer or early fall, but repeated use is costly, and the long-term effects on natural systems are not fully understood. Purple loosestrife blooms from June until September. Control: In spite of its spectacular beauty, often covering acres of wetland areas, purple loosestrife is a particularly troublesome invasive species with low wildlife value. Purple loosestrife is a wetland plant native to Europe and Asia that was brought to North America in the early 19th century. In addition, the plant offers very little food for animals. The pollen and nectar that purple loosestrife possess makes delicious honey. ), which only have one flowering stalk. Seasonal Cycle: This aggressive weed not only re-seeds prolifically, but also reproduces vegetatively from underground stems called rhizomes that spread at a rate of about one foot per year. It prefers moist, highly organic soils in open areas, but can tolerate a wide range of substrate material, flooding depths, and partial shade. It prefers full sun, but can tolerate shade. It creates a dense purple landscape that … Overtakes habitat and outcompetes native aquatic plants, potentially lowering diversity. Two cultivated species widely available are Lythrum salicaria and Lythrum virgatum. Purple loosestrife can be differentiated from these species by a com-bination of other characteristics. It needs moist conditions to reproduce but a mature plant can survive on dry soils for years. Purple loosestrife can spread naturally via wind, water, birds, and wildlife and through human activities, such as in seed mixtures, contaminated soil and equipment, clothing, and footwear. • By crowding out native plants it reduces biodiversity. The magenta flower spikes of the Purple Loosestrife. Purple loosestrife is a wetland plant native to Europe and Asia that was brought to North America in the early 19th century. Habitat where fish and wildlife feed, seek shelter, reproduce and rear young, quickly becomes choked under a sea of purple flowers. Stay up-to-date on the health of our lakes, educational events, and new volunteer opportunities! It's the North American equivalent of Himalayan Balsam in Britain. Ralph W. Tiner, Jr. Purple loosestrife grows primarily in freshwater wetlands, floodplains, along stream banks or lake edges, ponds or other shallow wet areas, in forested swamps where it gets enough light, and in roadside or field ditches and canals. It is a successful colonizer and potential invader of any wet, disturbed site in North America. In Minnesota, where purple loosestrife has spread at an alarming rate, it is illegal to plant or sell either L. salicaria or L. virgatum. Purple loosestrife spreads into natural areas and competes for resources with native vegetation. Invasive species cause recreational, economic and ecological damage—changing how residents and visitors use and enjoy Minnesota waters.Purple loosestrife impacts: 1. Provides unsuitable shelter, food, and nesting habitat for native animals. Since it was brought to North America, purple loosestrife has become a serious invader of wetlands, roadsides and disturbed areas. While deer forage on the new shoots in the spring, other animals, includ-ing muskrat, avoid the roots and stems of purple loosestrife. William A. Niering. Native marsh vegetation has naturally re-established in its place—proving that with the right tools available, wetland habitats can be reclaimed from aggressive invaders like purple loosestrife. It commonly occurs in freshwater and brackish marshes, along the shores of lakes, ponds and rivers, ditches, and other moist areas. Its 50 stems are four-angled and glabrous to pubescent. The plant is still used in flower gardens and occasionally sold in nurseries today. In reality, purple loosestrife is not nearly as destructive to habitats as it’s often made out to be, being more problematic when it colonizes disturbed, fallow habitat than when it exists as a member of an intact ecosystem. A Field Guide to Coastal Wetland Plants of the Northeastern United States. It was introduced to North America on several occasions: intentionally as a garden herb and accidentally in ship ballast. All Rights Reserved. Google it and you'll see what I mean. Biological control, in this case using insects from the plant’s natural environment, is being studied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Individual flowers have five to seven petals, and are attached close to the stem.
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