Purple Loosestrife

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) is a perennial plant native to Europe. It was brought to North America in the early 1800's by immigrants who valued its striking purple flowers. Seeds were also unintentionally transported to the shores of North America in the ballast water of ships.  Since then, purple loosestrife has expanded its range.  Beekeepers have noticed a great attraction to the Purple Loosestrife flower by their bees.  From late July to late August, bees collect nectar from these blooms and produce a rich flavored dark honey. 

NATIVE RANGE: Eurasia; throughout Great Britain, and across central and southern Europe to central Russia, Japan, Manchuria China, southeast Asia and northern India 

DESCRIPTION: Purple loosestrife is an erect perennial herb in the loosestrife family, with a square, woody stem and opposite or whorled leaves. Leaves are lance-shaped, stalkless, and heart-shaped or rounded at the base. Plants are usually covered by a downy pubescence. Loosestrife plants grow from four to ten feet high, depending upon conditions, and produce a showy display of magenta-colored flower spikes throughout much of the summer. Flowers have five to seven petals. Mature plants can have from 30 to 50 stems arising from a single rootstock. 

Wetland threat: Once purple loosestrife enters a wetland, it takes over. Common native wetland plants, such as cattails and sedges, cannot compete with purple loosestrife. Once these native plants are choked out, the wildlife that depends on them for food and shelter are also eliminated. Purple loosestrife has little value as food for animals, and populations of the plant become so thick that they cannot serve as cover for wildlife. Purple loosestrife also invades the shallow waters used for northern pike spawning, ruining these areas as spawning grounds.

Purple loosestrife reproduces prolifically -- one plant can produce several million seeds in a single summer. In addition, root or stem fragments can take root and form new plants. River water and floods are the primary ways that seeds and plant fragments are transported to new areas.

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