By Kara Herlihy
The invasive plant known as purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is thriving and, unfortunately, surviving throughout Warren Village and elsewhere in The Valley. Also known as "the purple plague," the invasive species is blooming and will soon go to seed at a rapid pace.
According to Warren Conservation Commission member Susan Hemmeter, purple loosestrife out-competes the native wet-loving plants that provide the vital food and nesting sites for various animal species.
"We don't want this plant," Hemmeter said of the loosestrife that has invaded several gardens throughout Warren Village and beyond. The invasive species is difficult to get rid of and, according to Hemmeter, has cost the U.S. government an estimated $45 million annually in control efforts.
According to the Nature Conservancy, purple loosestrife was once limited to gardens mainly in the Northeast but now "chokes wetlands across the country."
"Purple loosestrife has the ability to produce millions of seeds which spread easily by wind or water. Stands grow to thousands of acres in size, eliminating crucial open-water habitat for species such as butterflies and rare amphibians."
Purple loosestrife lacks a natural predator, such as a beetle that feeds on its roots and leaves, according to the Nature Conservancy. It has previously been promoted by horticulturists and beekeepers as a nectar plant.
THE KEY TO ITS CONTROL
Preventing the plant from flowering is key to its control, according to Hemmeter. The budding stalks should be cut before the plant has a chance to flower. If the buds and flowers are continually cut before the plant has a chance to go to seed, digging the plant up can be put off until the fall.
The entirety of the plant should be dug up, including the root system, Hemmeter said. Cuttings and dug up plants should be stored in a sturdy plastic bag and disposed of in the landfill.
Hemmeter urges anyone who sees the "purple plague" flowering to cut the buds before the invasive plant has a chance to spread their seed.