Have you been wondering what the dense stands of attractive purple flowers are that you’ve been seeing along roadsides and wet areas? It is probably purple loosestrife, a quite attractive plant. However, beneath this superficial beauty lies an aggressive, untamable beast. If left uncontrolled, purple loosestrife will take over our remaining wetlands.
Native to Europe and Asia, purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) was speculated to be first introduced to the United States from colonial settlers as ship ballast was unloaded from their sailing ships. Additionally, horticulturists imported seeds for landscaping and gardens.
Purple loosestrife grows in dense stands along waterways and wetlands, choking out native wetland species. Thick growth can reduce water flow by clogging drainage ditches. With a seed production as high as 2 million per plant, the ability to reproduce from fragments of its stem, and a high tolerance to water and variability to soils it has spread across most of the United States and can be found in many areas in Ohio. Once established, an individual plant can often live as long as 20 years.
Showy magenta to purplish flowers with 5-7 petals on long 4- 18 inch spikes makes this an easy plant to identify from July to September. Leaves are attached to the stem in sets of two or three. Stems typically have 4 or 6 sides and are slightly hairy. In the fall, leaves turn vibrant red in color. Plants often have up to 50 stems of up to 8 feet tall, with the whole plant sometimes as wide as 5 feet. No other wetland plants will create dense stands and have purplish flowers.
Ohio regulations prohibit the sale of purple loosestrife without a special permit from the Director of the Department of Agriculture. Although some sterile varieties of purple loosestrife are available, they often produce viable seeds when cross pollinated with other cultivars. If the look of purple loosestrife is what you want for your landscape, play it safe and consider using these native alternatives: Blazing stars (Liatris spp.), bee balm (Monarda fistulosa), swamp verbena (Verbena hastata), joe-pye weed (Eutrochium fistulosum), and cardinalflower (Lobelia cardinalis).
You can find additional information here: http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/lysa1.htm. If you are interested in volunteering to map purple loosestrife this summer or have any additional questions contact Eric Boyda at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-534-6578.
Phenology updates: Deptford pink, Japanese barberry, garlic mustard, purple loosestrife, Queen Anne’s lace, mimosa, Chinese yam, and orange daylily
Hey AOWCP blog followers. Uploading photos with updates of plant phenology has been one of my favorite things to post. Unfortunately, the main computer I am using doesn’t like loading pictures very well. I will try harder to get to a different computer to keep loading pictures up. Here are some highlights from the last month.
Deptford pink – Dianthus armeria : flowering
Japanese barberry – Berberis thunbergii : we used our weed wrench to pulled this guy up at a workshop
Garlic mustard – Alliaria petiolata : here are some garlic mustard basal rosettes (intermixed with some japanese stiltgrass – Microstegium vimineum).
Purple loosestrife – Lythrum salicaria : Blooming along the Ohio River. Purple loosestrife blooms from early July to early September
Queen Anne’s lace – Daucus carota: Queen Anne sure does own a lot of lace around here. Here is some flowering (white flowers) intermixed with some dried curly dock (Rumex cripsus).
Mimosa – Albizia julibrissin : Most have finished flowering by now, you may find a couple more still flowering the further north you are
Chinese yam – Dioscorea opposita: agressively growing, should have tiny bulbils (think of a tiny potato aboveground) forming at axis.
Orange daylilies – Hemerocallis fulva : Still flowering
CHIP-N (the Central Hardwoods Invasive Plant Network) is a partnership between the Appalachian Ohio Weed Control Partnership, River to River Cooperative Weed Management Area, and Southern Indiana Cooperative Invasive Management. CHIP-N and the Ohio River Basin Fish Habitat Partnership are working together to coordinate the volunteer mapping of purple loosestrife in the Ohio River Basin. This data will help local and regional managers determine the best management strategies and identify possible biocontrol release points. Purple loosestrife is very easy to identify from July-September and would take minimal effort to report it while conducting other activities (water sampling, surveying, canoeing, hiking, etc). If you are interested in participating, please contact Eric Boyda (email@example.com, 740-534-6578) and he will forward you on more information about what data to collect and how to easily identify purple loosestrife.
This is a great opportunity for organizations to get volunteers interested in reporting and mapping invasive species and possibly expand their programs in the future to include more or different species. Please forward this on to anyone you think would be interested.