Purple Loosestrife - Lythrum salicaria

This wetland perennial has a woody taproot and a branching fibrous root system. It grows up to2 metres in height. It has a stiff, four-sided stem with opposite or sometimes whorled stalkless leaves and its purple flowers form in dense terminal spikes. The flower itself is quite colourful and a field of Purple Loosestrife in full bloom is an eye-catching sight. A single plant can produce over 2.5 million seeds annually. And herein lies the problem. This plant is so prodigious and so intrusive in wetlands that it has two nasty characteristics. One, it eradicates all other wild flowers around it; two, it eliminates those wetland areas by depleting the ground water, thus altering the biosphere and habitat for resident birds, plants and insects. Unfortunately, it has no natural enemies being alien to North America, brought here by early settlers from Europe. Recent efforts to control its growth and spread have included mass root pullings by thousands of volunteers and land owners, as well as the controlled introduction of natural predators upon this plant. Beetles imported from Europe will feed upon the plant and ongoing studies in the field have proven effective and environmentally friendly. There was some initial concern that the beetles would not adapt well to our severe Canadian winters but this problem seems to have been dispelled as the vast majority of the beetles have over-wintered successfully.

Monarch Butterfly and Purple Loosestrife: Photo Credit: Margaret Wade

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