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Purple Loosestrife Can Overwhelm an Ecosystem

NEW CANAAN, Conn. – Have you ever looked at tall purple plants and thought about how pretty they are?

The purple loosestrife , the lanky plant with purple petals at the top, may look appealing. But it can be a burden for other plants hoping to grow, especially those near wetlands and pond areas.

“Unfortunately, it’s an invasive species in pond areas,” said Keith Marshall, director of education at the New Canaan Nature Center . “Wetlands are supposed to have diverse plant areas.”

But the tall plant, native to Europe, Asia, northwest Africa and Australia, has grown massively all over North America since arriving in the 1800s. The plants have decimated wetlands by preventing flora and fauna from growing, which hurts wildlife and fish that use those areas for protection and nesting. “Wetlands are incredibly important,” Marshall said. “They filter out water and act as flood buffers. Some areas have been decimated.”

Purple loosestrife plants are in abundance along a nature trail behind the visitors center at the New Canaan Nature Center. One purple loosestrife plant can release nearly 3 million seeds, each the size of a grain of sand, and the survival rate for the seeds is 60 percent to 70 percent, Marshall said.

The introduction of purple loosestrife is akin to pulling a string on a balanced ecosystem, he said. “Everything gets affected."

Purple loosestrife is hard to control, though several beetles and weevils have been deemed great biological controllers because they eat the plant.

Do you know an area where purple loosestrife plants have taken over? Let us know by leaving a comment below. You can also visit our Facebook page and share your thoughts on this overbearing flower.

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