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Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Speculator, NY ,

This beetle munches on the leaves of purple loosestrife, stunting growth and eventually killing the invasive plants. (Photo submitted)

This large stand of invasive purple loosestrife grew along the shoreline of Lake Pleasant. The plants were removed to prevent their spread along this valuable habitat. (Photo submitted)

Conservation Educator Caitlin Stewart manually manages invasive purple loosestrife along the Route 8 right-of-way in the Village of Speculator. (Photo submitted)

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Purple loosestrife losing ground

Sunday, August 24, 2014 - Updated: 5:22 PM

By CAITLIN STEWART

Conservation Educator

LAKE PLEASANT -- The Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District has been battling purple loosestrife since 2003.

It is an invasive plant that may be gorgeous but overruns wetlands and out-competes native plants that wildlife and waterfowl depend on for food, shelter, and nesting grounds.

During August SWCD staff members were armed with garden clippers and plastic bags to remove purple loosestrife from rights-of-way along state routes 8 and 30. This is the 12th year management efforts have been taken, and populations have greatly decreased.

This is good news for native plants, such as cattails, that fill in areas where invasive purple loosestrife used to grow.

Manual management involves clipping flower heads before they go to seed. All plant material is bagged and allowed to liquefy before being delivered to a transfer station.

"It is exciting to fight invasive plants for over a decade and see results like this," said Conservation Educator Caitlin Stewart. "Manual management is tedious, but persistent efforts have helped stop the spread of purple loosestrife."

FROM EUROPE

Purple loosestrife was introduced to North America in the 1800s. Colonists brought the plant over from Europe as an ornamental and for medicinal uses in tonics.

Ship ballast water held seeds and was emptied into ports. It is often planted in gardens. Without the ecological checks and balances found on its home turf, purple loosestrife can quickly reproduce and spread.

This perennial has showy, magenta flowers that bloom from July through September. Plants can tower 10 feet and produce 2.5 million seeds each year.

Broken roots can re-sprout. Wildlife, wind and water, mowing, and vehicles can spread seeds and fragments.

BEETLES TRIED

The SWCD received a biocontrol permit from the Department of Environmental Conservation in 2011. Beetles were released along the Sacandaga River and near the Speculator Pavilion to munch on leaves, preventing purple loosestrife from making food (sugars) during photosynthesis.

As sugar production decreases, new shoots and roots are not produced, and stunted plant growth results. These Galerucella beetles depend solely on purple loosestrife to complete their life cycle, and as plants die back, beetle populations crash.

AND THEY WORK

District staff surveyed the beetle release sites during past June and spotted adult beetles along with purple loosestrife leaves showing the characteristic shot-hole feeding damage. During manual management in August, beetles and leaf feeding damage were seen along Route 8 in Speculator, resulting from hungry adults flying to these new locations.

Manual management and biocontrol have put a dent in purple loosestrife.

The District has been working to manage and promote the wise use of natural resources in Hamilton County since 1965. To learn more about invasive species programs, contact 518-548-3991 or www.hcswcd.com.

     

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