Written by Industry Expert Jason Luce, Lake Management Scientist, Fisheries & Wildlife Scientist and Certified Lake Manager
You have just purchased beautiful purple flowers for your outdoor garden. The flowers compliment the nearby bushes and ornamental pond nicely, but what if I were to tell you that those newly planted flowers have the potential to naturally spread and negatively alter a nearby wetland; shifting the ecosystem from a diverse and beautiful habitat to a uniform, impenetrable purple landscape. Would you still plant them?
Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is an invasive herbaceous perennial and has caused the above scenario to become all too familiar across the US. Although the perennial is now widely considered to be invasive and should not be sold, the damage has been done. Therefore, management of purple loosestrife tends to be more heavily focused on control as opposed to prevention.
Purple loosestrife is considered to be native to Eurasia and became known within the US shortly after the beginning of the nineteenth century. The spread to North America occurred in the 1800s. Seeds were known to be sold in American and Canadian nurseries as early as the mid-1850s, and the seeds of the plant also made their way over in the ballast water of ships throughout the 1800s. Today, gardeners can still purchase the plant from some seed catalogues even though it is known to be problematic. It is important to understand the implications of such sales, in order to educate the public and, hopefully, keep this invasive species from continuing its spread.
Our natural wetlands are made up of a diverse group of plants, and this plant diversity drives diversity in wildlife. Once a non-native species is introduced, the wetland can quickly shift from having hundreds of thriving native plants to only a handful of natives. Purple loosestrife is a perfect example of a non-native species with little to no predators to control its population and spread. Purple loosestrife is also a fantastic reproducer. A single plant can produce 2.5 million seeds and these seeds can survive for years before germinating. Once purple loosestrife has become established, it will continue to spread and out-compete native vegetation, in turn decreasing the diversity of the native wildlife.
Purple loosestrife has a robust root mass and will survive even after the top is completely removed, making control difficult. Full excavation of the plant and root mass is the most effective long term management strategy, but this option is very labor intensive and expensive. For this reason, treatment and biological control are the two most practical and cost-effective options once the plant has become established. Biological control involves the use of insects, such as leaf eating beetles, to affect the growth and seed production through leaf feeding. Biological control is an interesting and natural control option, but results can vary significantly. Overall, chemical control may be the best option in terms of price and effectiveness. It is important to keep in mind that control should take place immediately after a new infestation has been identified. Once the plant becomes established, control price will increase exponentially with time.
When it comes to management of purple loosestrife, early detection through sound identification and rapid response to new infestations is critical. Property owners, managers and residents are encouraged to keep a watchful eye on their ponds, fields and wetlands for this purple invader. Acting swiftly to control only a few plants will not only have less impact on your budget but will also help to safeguard the integrity and biodiversity of your prized ecosystem.
Contact the experts at 888-480-LAKE (5253) for all of your lake, pond and fisheries management needs.
Jason Luce joined the SOLitude Lake Management team shortly after completing his master’s from SUNY Oneonta, where he received one of the first Master of Science degrees in Lake Management. Jason specializes in diagnosing and treating algae, submersed and floating weeds, shoreline weeds and any other unwanted vegetation. He monitors ponds and lakes to ensure that systems are functioning properly and that water quality standards are met.
SOLitude Lake Management is committed to providing full service lake and pond management services that improve water quality, preserve natural resources, and reduce our environmental footprint. Our services include lake, pond and fisheries management programs, algae and aquatic weed control, mechanical harvesting, hydro-raking, installation and maintenance of fountains and aeration systems, water quality testing and restoration, bathymetry, lake vegetation studies, biological assessments, habitat assessments, invasive species management and nuisance wildlife management. Services, consulting and aquatic products are available to clients nationwide, including homeowners associations, multi-family and apartment communities, golf courses, commercial developments, ranches, private landowners, reservoirs, recreational and public lakes, municipalities, parks, and state and federal agencies. Learn more about SOLitude Lake Management and purchase products at www.solitudelakemanagement.com.