Purple Loosestrife

Common Name: Purple Loosestrife.

Scientific Name: Lythrum Salicaria.

What to look for?  Tall, perennial wildflower with lovely spikes of tiny purple flowers. Purple Loosestrife will have a single stiff, angular stem as it establishes itself. Mature plants will often appear bush-like with sometimes dozens of woody stems growing from a single rootstock. The green, oval leaves are long and narrow, becoming smaller as they ascend the stems. These stems terminate into long, showy spikes of numerous purple or magenta flowers. Individual flowers have five to seven petals and grow in pairs or clusters.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? While Purple Loosestrife has not been found here around Carillon Stonegate Pond, several colonies are scattered in the meadows around the forest preserve property.

How big are they? Purple Loosestrife may grow from three (3) to nearly five (5) feet tall. The narrowly oval leaves are approximately four (4) inches long and less than one (1) inch across. Each spike of flowers is about two (2) inches long.

Where do they grow and thrive? The non-native Purple Loosestrife occurs occasionally in northeastern Illinois. It was introduced into the United States from Europe as a horticultural plant. While these plants are scattered across most of the U.S., the Purple Loosestrife tends to the northern states. Purple Loosestrife is on the prohibited weed list for many of these states. Habitats include a variety of wetland habitats such wet meadows, fens, marshes, borders of ponds and rivers, and ditches.

When do they bloom? The blooming period of the Purple Loosestrife occurs from mid-summer to early fall and lasts about two (2) months.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? The flowers of the Purple Loosestrife attract long-tongued bees such as bumblebees and butterflies such as the Cabbage White, but otherwise has low wildlife value.

Interesting Facts About the Purple Loosestrife:

  • Originally a native of Europe, Purple Loosestrife was introduced to the northeastern United States and Canada in the 1800’s and has since spread westward and southward.

  • In spite of its spectacular beauty, often covering acres of wetland areas, Purple Loosestrife is a particularly troublesome invasive species with low wildlife value.

  • Purple Loosestrife was probably introduced multiple times to North America, both as a contaminant in ship ballast and as an herbal remedy for digestive ailments.

  • A single plant can produce over 2 million seeds.

  • Purple Loosestrife is competitive and can rapidly displace native species if allowed to establish.

For more information on the Purple Loosestrife and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, Missouri Botanical Garden, and Minnesota Wildflowers.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!