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Lythrum salicaria

THE CRIMES: Degrades wetlands and marshes by taking away habitat and food for native
wildlife. Can invade farmers’ crops and pasture lands.

DESCRIPTION: Perennial weed with pretty purple flowers that can grow 2-3 meters tall (over 6 feet). Each flower has 5-6 petals surrounding a small, yellow center. Leaves have smooth edges and are arranged in pairs forming a 90 degree angle to the stalk, which is square and woody. Mature plants can produce 2.5 million seeds each year.

The Interrogation
Where are you from?
I made my way from wetlands throughout Europe.
How did you get here?
Settlers that came to North America brought me over for their flower gardens. I also stowed away in soil used in the ballast holds of early European freighters before water was used.
What’s your problem?
When I’m on the loose, which is typical for me, I cause strife (loosestrife, get it?). I push out lots of native wetland plants because I’m a hardy type. Hundreds of species of plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, fish and amphibians are forced to look for food in other places because their favorite plants are gone and I am no use to them. Wildlife also have a harder time finding shelter, reproducing and raising their young because the habitat they’re used to is no longer there. Did I mention that I even invade farmers’ crops and pasture lands.
How can we control you?
There are many ways to get rid of me…well, not actually get rid of me, but at least keep me in check. If it’s a place where I haven’t reached my full potential and my population is sparse (1-50 plants) you can dig me up or pull me out by hand. Ouch! Be sure to get as much of my roots as possible because loosestrife can even grow from broken roots. You can use chemicals to control me. Using an approved herbicide and selectively spraying will destroy me and keep other plants safe. Biological control is getting more and more popular now because wetland managers are realizing it is pretty effective in larger stands. Galerucella beetles were specially chosen because they are my natural enemies. I thought I had escaped from them! Some eat up my leaves or flowers, and others can feed on my root tissue and eventually I shrivel and die. There goes my beautiful wickedness!
Reward: The honor of protecting our water resources— A healthier environment and more opportunities to enjoy our natural areas.