Plants: The Purple Loosestrife

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Purple Loosestrife is a plant with diverse qualities. It blooms profusely and in the past has been loved by many for its ornamental value. More recently it is drawing attention to itself for outcompeting native species and altering the landscape of wetlands throughout the world.
In examining this perennial herb, turned weed, we will learn where it came from, where it grows and the impact it has had on North American ecosystems. We will also review control methods, both successful and unsuccessful.

Origin and Description

Lythrum salicaria is a part of the family of Lythraceae, known as the Henna family. The genus Lythrum is comprised of 38 species of annuals, perennials, and subshrubs. The name Lythrum comes from the greek lythron, meaning blood. This is most likely referring to the reddish-purple colour of the flowers (Hyam and Pankhurst, 1995.) The species name salicaria alludes to the long narrow leaf shape, which resembles the leaves of the Willow (Salix spp.) (Jacobs, 2008). Although Lythrum salicaria is referred to by more than 10 common names throughout North America, the most commonly accepted is Purple Loosestrife.
Native throughout Europe and Asia, Lythrum is an herbaceous perennial that dies back in the winter. Shoots emerge from the woody crown in late spring. Plants generally grow to 6 feet, but can reach heights of 10 feet. The stems and leaves are mostly hairy. Flowers have a tubular calyx with five to seven lobes and ridges between each lobe. Two stamens are fused to each lobe. Flowers are usually reddish-purple but can vary to white, pink, purple, or red. The flowers are densely arranged on a terminal spike and result in a 1.25 to 1.9 inch capsule. Each capsule contains many small, lightweight, flat, and angu...

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... R. (1993). Biological control of purple loosestrife. BioScience, 43(10), 680-686.

Piper, G. L. "Biological Control of the Wetlands Weed Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum Salicaria) in the Pacific Northwestern United States." Hydrobiologia 340.1-3 (1996): 291-94. Web.

Tavernia, Brian G., and Reed, J. Michael. "The Impact Of Exotic Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum Salicaria) On Wetland Bird Abundances." American Midland Naturalist 168.2 (2012): 352-363. Academic Search Premier. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.

Thompson, Daniel Q., Ronald L. Stuckey, and Edith B. Thompson. Spread, Impact, and Control of Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum Salicaria) in North American Wetlands.Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, 1987. Print.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. (2004). Lythrum salicaria plants profile. Retrieved from
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