Essay on Purple Loosestrife

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Purple Loosestrife

The scene is breathtakingly beautiful, a thick brush of purple flowers blankets
Canada's wetlands. This blanket silences the expected sounds of the wetland environment, birds chirping, ducks splashing, insects buzzing and animals thriving. This unnatural silence is disturbing, the favourite flowers that used to litter this landscape are no longer visible, the water that used to ripple continuously is perfectly still. The wetland is dead, except for this overpowering, hardy purple flower that has choked out all other vegetation and species. Purple loosestrife now controls this landscape.

Purple loosestrife is an exotic species that was introduced to North America from Europe during the early 1800's. Europeans sailing
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The genus Lythrum consists of thirty - five species, two of which are located in
North America, Lythrum Purish which is native to the continent and the invasive purple loosestrife. Through cross breeding, purple loosestrife is quickly overtaking Lythrum Purish and causing a decrease in native species. "The generic name comes from the Greek luthrum, blood, possibly in reference to the colour of the flowers or to one of it's herbal uses, as an astringent to stop the flow of blood." (Canadian Wildlife Federation 1993, 38) Purple loosestrife, an aggressive, competitive, invasive weed often grows to the height of a human and when it is mature can be 1.5 metres in width. The stalk of the plant is square and woody and may grow to 50 centimeters in diameter. The perennial rootstock can give rise to 50 stems annually which produce smooth edged leaves on oppositesides of the stalk. Purple loosestrife flowers are long pink and purple spikes which bloom from June to September (Figure 1). One purple loosestrife plant alone is solid and hardy but when this plant invades an area it creates a "dense, impermeable stands which

Figure 2 - Purple loosestrife growing in a typical habitat.
(Parker 1993)

are unsuitable as cover, food or resting sites for a wide range of native wetland animals..." (Michigan Department of Natural
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