10 June, 2009

Purple Loosestrife - A Beautiful Danger

Sometimes we are lucky enough to have volunteer plants in our garden. Or perhaps, we see a beautiful plant along the road and want to bring it home with us. I had a purple loosestrife in my garden when I bought my house. It looked really lovely, but I pulled it out.

While beautiful, purple loosestrife, known as the “purple plague,” (Lythrum salicaria) is an ornamental plant known for its purple-spiked flowers. Purple loosestrife was brought to New England as an ornamental plant in the early 1800s. Once limited to gardens in the Northeast, it now chokes wetlands across the country.

Purple loosestrife has the ability to produce millions of seeds which spread easily by wind or water. Stands grow to thousands of acres in size, eliminating crucial open-water habitat for species such as butterflies and rare amphibians, and ultimately change an entire ecosystem. Efforts to control purple loosestrife cost the U.S. economy an estimated $45 million each year. Purple loosestrife lacks a natural predator, such as a beetle that feeds on its roots and leaves, in the U.S.

If you find it growing on your property, simply pulling it up or using herbicides can work to remove it. Once a large population is established, however, it is extremely difficult to remove.

An alternative to Purple Loosestrife is Blazing Star, which has spiked, pink-purple flowers and is an important source of nectar for many native species of butterflies and other insects or consult your local nursery for other alternatives.

Another invasive plant:

I myself only discovered this while doing the post on the purple loosestrife:

Dames Rocket, above, is classified as an noxious weed. Some, including myself, may incorrectly call it wild Phlox, but Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis) is a Eurasian biennial belonging to the mustard family. It was introduced to North America in the 1600’s and has naturalized itself in moist, wooded areas, but can also invade open areas. It may be sold in garden centers as a perennial and is often included in “wildflower” seed mixes. The plant’s 3-month-long blooming period and ability to set abundant seed have contributed to its spread.

Dames Rocket has 4 petals per flower, whereas Phlox has 5 petals per flower. I have cut these wildflowers and brought them home to enjoy thinking they were wild phlox. I'll just purchase the real phlox from the nursery and will enjoy the real deal instead of transplanting dames rocket.
Visit Susan at A Southern Daydreamer to view Outdoor Wednesday for other outdoor posts.


Becky K. said...

I did not know these things. Interesting.


Martha said...

Thanks for sharing -- sometimes we don't understand about bringing outsiders in and the havoc they can wreck -- be it plants, fish or wildlife.

Crystal said...

Thanks for your post. I didn't know any of this info. I called it wild phlox also.

Domestic Designer said...

Thanks for the info. I wasn't aware of any of these things. Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

I henceforth will look more favorably at my ever-spreading blazing star. Thanks. Lorra (Doug Green fan.)

stefanie said...

how sad that something so beautiful is bad. thanks for sharing.

Susan @ A Southern Daydreamer said...

Happy Outdoor Wednesday Karen! Hmmm.. it is too bad it is invasive...because it sure is pretty en masse! Thanks for sharing your photos.~ Susan

Barb~Bella Vista said...

Karen, I didn't know this but they are so pretty.


Allidink said...

What an interesting and informative post! It's so funny how some plants and wildlife are like invasive you'd just think it was meant to be that way or wouldn't cause harm.

All the best,

Mary said...

It's hard to believe that anything so beautiful can be so noxious, but I'm a believer. Thanks for sharing the information. Have a great day.

Pat@Back Porch Musings said...

Interesting post, Karen.

Wild Honeysuckle is so beautiful, but is considered environmentally unhealthy, too. It will kill a tree. We have some by the creek, J keeps controlled.

Brenda said...

They sure are pretty though! Learn something new every day on blogs.

Rhondi said...

Hi Karen
Loosestrife brings a fond memory of my mother to my mind. Every time we would see it growing she would always comment on how it was eliminating all the marsh areas. My sister and I would bait her and see how long it would take for her to comment. She took the bait every time! Thanks for the memory!
Hugs, Rhondi

Claudia@DipityRoad said...

Hmmm while they may be "bad" i still think they are gorgous.

Thanks for sharing.

TTFN~~ Claudia

Anonymous said...

I guess too much of everything is really really bad. No wonder it's called a plague.

Happy Outdoor Wednesday!


laurie @ bargain hunting said...

Very interesting post. amazing that such beauty can have hidden harmful effects. Thanks for sharing that information. laurie

Smilingsal said...

What a shame that such a beauty is invasive.

Tootsie said...

too bad it is a dangerous bully! It sure is pretty! thanks for the warning!

shopannies said...

so pretty too bad it is a garden hog