Lythrum Salicaria

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Background information

Lythrum salicaria, commonly known as purple loosestrife, is an exotic, wetland perennial introduced from Europe approximately two-hundred years ago. The plant was introduced both as a contaminant of European ship ballast and as a valued medical herb (Malecki, Blossey, Hight & Schroeder, 1993). These plants although attractive to look at are responsible for the degradation of many New York wetlands. Because they produce so many seeds and can grow up to a centimeter a day, they are able to eliminate native plants and thus, reducing the food for the wetland inhabitants.

Characteristics

Purple loosestrife is approximately two meters tall with thirty to fifty stems forming wide-topped crowns. These reddish purple flower masses are so dense that they form a canopy. "Darwin noted that three types of flowers occurred on L. salaria plants and that three lengths of styles occurred with three combinations of anther lengths. He also noted that the three forms of flowers coexisted in wild populations in nearly equal frequencies" (Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center 1999). The strong root stock serves as an anchor and a storage organ. Spring and summer are the two seasons in which purple loosestrife is most notable because of the tall reddish-purple flowers, but in autumn the leaves dehydrate and turn bright red. In winter purple loosestrife is characterized by the brown toned stalks that remain standing with spire-shaped capsule clusters.

Growing Requirements and Reproduction

High temperatures with the combination of open, moist soil are desirable growing conditions for Lythrum salicaria (Blossey, Schroeder, Hight, & Malecki, 1994). Because a single, mature plant can produce more than 2...

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...ht net so they are unable to fly away while they are being transferred to the release site. Once they are at the site the beetle infested plants are mixed with the other ones and the net is taken off. These beetles remain here without the net because loosestrife is the main source of food. These methods are the most successful so far, and hopefully one day they will get the entire problem under control.

Conclusion

Although purple loosestrife is still a major problem throughout the United States, steps (as of 1998 the program has cost 1.5 million dollars) are being taken to reduce the situation and slowly reclaim our wetland inhabitants with the help of four different types of beetles and a weevil.

Taxonomy

Kingdom Plantae

Phylum Magnoliophyla

Class Magnoliopsida

Order Myrtales

Family Lythraceae

Genus species Lythrum salicaria

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