The Problem with Purple Loosestrife
The purple loosestrife is a flowering plant found in wetlands. The plant, which can grow as tall as two meters, is made up of a few square shaped, woody stems and hundreds of flower spikes. Each flower spike has many individual flowers that are pink-purple with small, yellow centers. The flowers bloom from June to September. Purple loosestrifes are herbaceous perennial plants, meaning it lives for more than two years, but all growth above the ground dies when growing season is over. (Merriam-Webster 1) Their seeds germinate in late spring or early summer. They spread and live in whole areas, called colonies. Purple loosestrifes can survive in wet soil as well as dry conditions. Being a producer, the plant can make its own food.
Purple loosestrife originated throughout Great Britain, and Europe to Central Russia, Japan, Manchuria China, Southeast Asia, and Northern India. It was brought to Canada and Northeastern United States in the 1800s, for ornamental and medicinal uses (Swearingen 1). Medicinal uses included treatment for bleeding, wounds, ulcers, and sores. By the 1830’s, purple loosestrife was well established along the Atlantic Coast and it expanded inland through waterways and roads as settlement expanded in the United States. Most states allowed the distribution of purple loosestrife, excluding Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. People often planted it in their gardens not knowing it was invasive. Purple Loosestrife has now spread all across the United States. The only states it does not inhabit are Arizona, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Hawaii, and Alaska.
The plant that was once thought to be beneficial and harmless has turned out to be quite a problem. Purple loosestrife is an invasive species, meaning it is a plant that is not native to an ecosystem and it causes harm in some way to that ecosystem. This plant has the ability to reproduce at an alarming rate. A single...
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