Creature Feature: Purple Loosestrife, (Lythrum salicaria)
By Emma Dean, CG Science Editor
Purple loosestrife first arrived in North America in the early 1800’s from Europe, most likely from the ballast water of ships. The plant is prolific when growing in its preferred wet conditions such as marshes, riverbanks or ditches, but can also survive in drier conditions. In its most preferred growing conditions, purple loosestrife is somewhat aggressive. The habitats that support fish and other wildlife can quickly become consumed by the mass of purple flower which the plant produces.
It begins blooming in July and continues until September or October. Each plant forms a bush with up to 50 stems which can produce one to two million seeds. Seeds that do not immediately germinate can live for several years in the soil of a river’s bank. As an invasive species, its ability to thrive and procreate is not welcomed. In some states, such as Wisconsin, the plant is legally considered a nuisance plant and so it is illegal to sell, distribute or cultivate the plants or seeds.
However, some people will plant purple loosestrife in their garden as they find it visually attractive. Other than ornamental purposes, it is also planted for its nectar by beekeepers. Purple loosestrife also has a few medicinal uses.
- Its medicinal uses include treating diarrhea, dysentery, fevers, constipation and cholera.
- Japanese beetles are highly attracted to purple loosestrife.
- Some other names for purple loosestrife are blooming sally, purple willow herb, purplegrass, salicaire and rainbow-weed.
- Besides reproducing from seeds, purple loosestrife can also procreate with new plants sprouting from the roots or runners of other plants.