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 plant can produce two to three million tiny seeds every year. They can also spread through their roots. The rapid reproduction is why purple loosestrife is such a threat; it can spread and overpower a community easily. It has invaded thousands of wetlands and altered the areas’ balance and structure. It has dominated over most of the native vegetation that provided food, shelter, and nesting sites for animals in the area. Purple loosestrife is not a suitable shelter for these animals because it is dense and impenetrable. These animals, such as ducks, geese, muskrats, and turtles, now are put at risk because purple loosestrife has taken over their homes. The food chain is set far off balance as the native plants, on which many organisms relied, are overpowered. Another problem purple loosestrifes have created is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has verified three insects from Europe were brought over with the purple loosestrife and are eating other native plants. Fortunately, their potential impact on native species is low. The last problem with purple loosestrife is that they decrease land value because removal is very difficult and costly. In fact, many organizations in the United States have attempted to control the spread of purple loosestrife, but with little success (Jensen 1). Attempted efforts include burning, mowing, hand pulling, water manipulation, and chemical application. Each of these has proven to be either ineffective or only mildly effective. Therefore, not much progress has taken place the prevention of the purple loosestrife from overpowering ecosystems. In the future, purple loosestrife must be controlled. The strategy that seems most promising is biological control. Biological control involves the use of specially selected insects to feed on the purple loosestrife and potentially destroy it. This process is still in the works to see if it will be provide a long-term removal solution. It is known that the entire root system of the plant should be removed for best results. Unfortunately, that is difficult to accomplish, so new strategies must still be developed. It is imperative that efforts are made to stop purple loosestrife. It is now considered one of the worst invasive non-native species in North American wetlands. This is due to its nature to spread quickly into areas and take over the whole community.
Even if one does not live in an affected area, the purple loosestrife could very likely spread to one’s area soon. If purple loosestrife continues on its aggressive path, many plant and animal species could be endangered, or worse, extinct. Although the purple loosestrife is a pretty looking plant, it is bad for the environment and must be controlled. * http://plants.usda.gov/java/nameSearch
Swearingen, Jil. "Purple Loosestrife." PCA Alien Plant Working Group. N.p., 07 2009. Web. 6 Jan 2013. .
Jensen, Doug. "Purple Loosestrife: What you should know, what you can do." Minnesota Sea Grant. N.p., 06 2009. Web. 6 Jan 2013. .
Merriam-Webster. "perennial." Merriam-Webster. N.p., 20 2011. Web. 6 Jan 2013. .
Cited: Swearingen, Jil. "Purple Loosestrife." PCA Alien Plant Working Group. N.p., 07 2009. Web. 6 Jan 2013. . Jensen, Doug. "Purple Loosestrife: What you should know, what you can do." Minnesota Sea Grant. N.p., 06 2009. Web. 6 Jan 2013. . Merriam-Webster. "perennial." Merriam-Webster. N.p., 20 2011. Web. 6 Jan 2013. .