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Purple loosetrife is loose in area, region

August 24, 2012
By ABBEY HAUSWIRTH - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - Growing in local wetlands and ditches in the Upper Peninsula is a beautiful, deep purple colored plant that, while attractive to the eye, is wreaking havoc on area wetlands and threatening to take over native plants.

The culprit, known as purple loosestrife lythrum dalicaria, is a plant with magenta flowers that peaks in late summer. It was originally brought to the states for ornamental and medicinal purposes. Now however, several parties are doing their best to stop the plant from expanding.

Purple loosestrife is considered unique with its four-sided square stems. The danger of this plant is its rapid production of seeds. Each plant can produce 1 million to 2.7 million seeds and quickly out muscles native plants.

Article Photos

Here are examples of purple loosetrife growing in the Marquette area. The attractive flowering plant is an invasive species. (Journal by Abbey Hauswirth)

To combat this, staff from Northern Michigan University, Forestland Group, Superior Watershed Partnership, both Marquette and Alger conservation districts and the Central Upper Peninsula Cooperative Weed Management Area are working to stop seed-heads, remove loosestrife and outline where the plants are growing. In addition, some areas are now using loosestrife-eating beetles to reduce the effects of the invasive species.

If loosestrife is not controlled, it will continue to dominate native plants and cause further damage.

"There will be no nutrition for wildlife if this plant takes over... our goal is to get rid of the seed heads, then we can deal with the plant later," said Renee Leow, administrator for the Conservation District.

Leow said in addition to spreading fast, Loosestrife has deep roots that are difficult to get out and the plant has no known enemies in this country.

Both conservation districts recently were awarded grant funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to gather data and remove loosestrife from the two areas. They also hope to stop the plant from spreading in the water systems and onto the beaches.

"If we can keep it in check right now, we can beat it. We need the public to react by reporting all sightings. Then we can verify, go out in the field and provide assistance to get rid of it," Leow said.

She added that many people confuse loosestrife with a native plant known as fireweed. Although the two plants share the same purple coloring, the main difference is loosestrife's distinctive square stem. Leow encourages the public to report it, even if they are not sure.

Anyone who sees purple loosestrife growing in local areas is asked to call the Marquette County Conservation District at 226-2461, extension 102, or the Alger Conservation District at 387-2222.

Abbey Hauswirth can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 240.



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