Other names: spiked loosestrife, purple lythrum
Family: Lythraceae (Loosestrife Family)
Range: Native to Europe and Asia
Native Habitat: Found in ditches, wet meadows and marshes and along sides of lakes.
Bloom Time: Summer
Here we have the first plant I’ve profiled that’s a genuine invasive species. It was introduced to North America from Europe in the 1880s, first as a cultivated plant. (Or possibly as ballast pollution.) It escaped cultivated, and has been spreading since. At this time of year, it’s in pretty much any even vaguely marshy area you pass by here in Maine. It’s now found in all states except Florida, and all the Canadian provinces.
This plant forms really dense cloning colonies, which are absolutely deadly to the native plants and wildlife – choking them out. It looks really pretty – you get a cloud of purple over a marshland, but it’s just so sad to think about what it’s doing. Each plant is capable of producing up to 2.5 million seeds. It really is amazing to think something so pretty can be so terrible.
This plant is bad enough that I wasn’t able to find any information about it from its native habitat in the first three pages of Google results – something I’ve never run into before. Invasive concerns completely dominate search results.
This is one of the plants they’ve been trying to keep in check by introducing native insects that traditionally feed on the plant.
It’s been used as a medicinal herb for treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, bleeding, wounds, ulcers and sores.
Locations in Photos:
Fort William Park, Cape Elizabeth, ME
Springfield, VT (outside the Holiday Inn Express, to be precise)
Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, Sudbury, MA
Hudson, MA (near a friend’s house)
Hamilton House, South Berwick, ME