While pretty, Purple Loosestrife is a highly invasive wetland plant that outcompetes local cattails. Native to wetlands in Europe and Asia, it was introduced to Canada in the early 19th century. Like many invasive plants, it benefits from an incredible reproductive rate, producing up to 2.7 million seeds a year from 30 flowering stems.
Needless to say, after learning to recognize it and spotting a significant amount growing in the wetlands near my house, I decided to exterminate as much as I could.
I quickly learned why it’s so difficult to remove. Purple Loosestrife appears to have an extremely dense root structure, likely to maximize nutrient absorption in the oxygen-poor soil in wetlands. It also works to hold on to said soil (which had more the consistency of wet clay) and weigh down the plant. For every pound of plant matter I dug out, I probably ripped out five or six pounds of earth. Nonetheless, I persevered, levering the hideous (but pretty) plants out of the muck and shaking as much soil as I could into the gaping holes I was leaving behind. All the while, bumblebees flew peacefully around me.
Or not. One thing I’d failed to notice was that bumblebees seem to really like Purple Loosestrife flowers. They were willing to put up with me taking out five or six plants, but as I moved on to the seventh, they started making rather… pointed objections. It took four near-misses and one actual sting before I took the hint and beat a hasty retreat.
That just goes to show why it’s next to impossible to eradicate an invasive species once it’s established itself. Not only are its numbers too great to easily deal with (looking back, I barely made a dent in the local Loosestrife population), but the local environment will sometimes take the invasive’s side.
So for now, all I can do is sit and wait, cursing bitterly. Maybe the bees will be more cooperative when it gets colder…