Purple Loosestrife Bio-Control Project
March 11, 2015
Our wetlands are being severely threatened by purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). Purple loosestrife is a highly invasive, perennial aquatic plant that grows from persistent roots. The annual stems can reach 9 feet tall and form a crown that can be up to 5 feet wide. The showy, magenta flowering stems end in a 4-16 inch flowering spike.
In the mid to late 1800’s, purple loosestrife traveled to northeastern port cities as ship ballast from European tidal flats. When this ballast was dumped for the return trip to Europe, a major seed source remained along the eastern seaboard. For the next 100 years it was a pioneer species while it acclimated to the northeastern seaboard and the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Purple loosestrife outcompetes native vegetation and can quickly adapt to environmental changes. Wildlife and birds of all kinds are displaced from wetland habitat when they lose their food source, nesting material, and ground cover.
In order to preserve wetland ecosystems, many organizations across the country have initiated a purple loosestrife biological control program. Biological control is the control of an invasive species using a natural predator. These programs have had success in lowering the density and slowing the spread of purple loosestrife. The most popular biological control agent for purple loosestrife is Galerucella beetles. These beetles eat and breed specifically on purple loosestrife.
SVT is participating with a purple loosestrife bio-control project in 2015. The program is being coordinated by the SuAsCo CISMA (Cooperative Invasive Plant Management Area). CISMA is a partnership of private and government conservation organizations working together to combat invasive species in our watershed. We are looking for volunteers to help raise these beetles. For more information please visit our Volunteer Page.
Purple Loosestrife in Lincoln
September 3, 2012
Harold McAleer photographed purple loosestrife in Lincoln.