Purple Loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife (Caroline Savage, Saint Lawrence Centre)

Purple Loosestrife (Caroline Savage, Saint Lawrence Centre)

I noticed it two years ago.  The showy purple flowers, standing tall like spears amongst the cattails.  I knew what it was and thought, “I should get rid of that stuff.”  I pulled some of it, in the ditch next to the road, but the plants deep in the wet part of the field I just left.  Next year I would get it.

By this year it was well established.  It has really spread from the few plants I saw two years ago.  A few weeks ago I pulled some of it.  I tried to get all of it at one end of the field, where there were only a few plants.  I dug up a few more in the broad field and along the road.  Then I put it off.  That stuff is hard to pull out of the ground.  I got out there today and had some work to do.

Purple Loosestrife was brought to North America in the 19th century as a source for medicines and through ship balast.  It was further introduced when it was brought to gardens as a perennial flower.  Canals and roads helped it spread.  It is beautiful.  The flowers are tall and colorful and shine in the sun.  But it is also trouble.  The plant likes wet areas and can take over, outcompeting native plants and clogging the place right up.  It spreads underground, roots sprouting new stalks, and it also produces zillions of tiny seeds.  I had to take action.

Let me say right off that I did not get the job done.  I pulled some up by the roots, prying with a fork, but most of it I just clipped with pruning shears.  I would have preferred to yank it out but there is too much at this point.  I needed to at least get the flowers out so they don’t go to seed.  I clipped and dragged and pulled and piled for a while.  I got cut up and sweaty and tired and had three huge piles of stalks.  When I looked back, I could see that it at least was contained a little more.  I had kept it from spreading, a little.  If I can get out there again this week, the field will be better off.  If I can at least cut it all, I will have a head start next summer.

There is no way it is going away any time soon.  Even if I were to dig up all of it, it would likely come back sooner or later.  It is tenacious and voracious.  And we have a great spot for it.  I may be pulling it for as long as we live here.  Apparently one can use herbicides to control it.  I say no thanks to that.  And there are some insects that might snack on it, but I hesitate to take that route. One invasive species is enough.  If I can scale the plant back every year, there is a chance I might get rid of it eventually.  It will take some time, however, and a lot of work.  For our field to stay healthy, however, it needs to be done.  And ain’t nobody else taking on that task.