This is the first in a small series of blog posts I’m calling Taking Back the Farm. Each post will focus on an invasive species that is present at Gilsland Farm. I hope you can take some of the information from these posts to identify and eradicate any non-native and invasive species you find on your property.
Native to Eurasia, purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is a terribly invasive plant that can be found across the country. With tall, pinkish purple racemes it is an unfortunately beautiful plant but it can quickly take over swamps and meadows. Without some control, this non-native flower will continue to push out our native flora and create monocultures unsuitable as habitat for other wildlife.
Removal is difficult and requires lots of labor. As with all invasives, there is no single step to eradication. However a combination of tactics and continued effort will keep invasives at bay and give our natives a chance to flourish. The most effective way to get rid of purple loosestrife is to dig it up by the roots. You want to completely remove the entire plant from the area. Put all parts of the plant into trash bags but make sure there is no risk of plant matter being spread on the way to, or at, the landfill. Burning the plant matter is the most effective disposal method.
**DO NOT put this in your compost as the seeds will thrive.
We recently had a purple loosestrife removal party at Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm. Employees volunteered an hour before work and we removed as much of this invasive as we could find. Our main goal was to at least cut and remove all the flowerheads — before any went to seed — to prevent the plants currently here from spreading. It will take more effort (more “parties”) but I am thrilled with the success of this first step.
Before getting started, do your homework. Make sure that you are able to identify purple loosestrife and don’t accidentally remove anything that should be there. There are many “loosestrifes” (Lysimachia), but only one purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). Hint: the Lysimachias are all yellow. And there are some plants that can look fairly similar. Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) is a common roadside flower and blue vervain (Verbena hastata) also grows in wet meadows — but both are those are welcome natives.
A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.