That purple flower now in bloom along Idaho ditches, rivers, wetlands and ponds may look pretty to the eye but looks can be terribly deceiving. Because chances are it is actually an invasive noxious weed that poses a devastating threat to Idaho’s future, officials with the Idaho Weed Awareness Campaign are warning.
"It is not an ornamental flower but an invasive noxious weed called Purple loosestrife," said Roger Batt, campaign coordinator. "Purple loosestrife already has taken over some 35,000 acres of land in Idaho, more than 4 million acres across the country, and is continuing to spread."
Purple loosestrife is an insidious wetland weed that came to the eastern United States about 200 years ago from Eurasia. The noxious weed can take over wetlands by slowing water flow, which increases silt deposits and makes the stream channel smaller, impacting native plants, fish and wildlife.
Purple loosestrife can clog ditches and irrigation canals and is so bad in some places that people have nicknamed it the "Marsh Monster". The weed grows up to six feet tall and spreads quickly in wet soils. Each plant is capable of producing hundreds of thousands of seeds.
"What is alarming about Purple loosestrife is that it can be purchased illegally on the internet and then planted in gardens and wetland areas. The Idaho Noxious Weed law prohibits the purchasing and planting of noxious weeds in Idaho, so if you know of someone planting Purple loosestrife, ask them to stop spreading this noxious weed," Batt added.
Purple loosestrife is just one of about three dozen noxious weeds that have gained a foothold in Idaho. These destructive non-native, invasive plants choke out native vegetation, starving wildlife out of their food supply and render once valuable land useless. Statewide, invasive weeds cause more than $300 Million in direct damages to Idaho’s economy.
"County Weed Superintendents are asking for access to property from owners who have infestations of Purple loosestrife to introduce a bio-control agent called Galerucella, an insect that literally devours the plant", said Jim Martell Canyon County Weed Superintendent.
If you spot a plant you think might be Purple loosestrife, pinch off apiece containing a bloom and take it to your Local County Weed Superintendent. You’ll find it located under County Government in the phone book. Be sure to note exactly where you found the plant so the County Weed Superintendent can locate the infestation.
For more information on Purple loosestrife and other noxious weeds go to the Idaho Weed Awareness Campaign website at www.idahoweedawareness.org or to report noxious weeds in your county call 1-866-439-3337 (439-IDWEEDS).