Oma Sue's Blog
Hi – I’m Sue Reyzlik. I recently realized my life-long dream of building a writing hut in the backyard. The writing hut serves as a creative space and home office for Oma Publishing. This blog will be intermingled with family history, varied experiences and insights on being a Grandma (Oma), creating my special backyard space, as well as, my “retirement” career as a self-publisher of children’s stories. And perhaps a little bit on the 32 years I served as Executive Director for Keep Fremont Beautiful and the wonderful people who are sharing this adventure.
Back in the day – when I was working as Executive Director of Keep Fremont Beautiful, we had an education program concerning the removal of purple loosestrife from home gardens. The home garden variety of purple loosestrife was promoted as sterile – it was supposedly a male version of the plant and so it couldn’t spread.
Let me just say this… Purple Loosestrife is a pretty plant. OK – we all agree… pretty. But – we should all agree on another thing – just because something is a pretty thing, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it is a good thing! A lot of bad stuff comes in pretty packaging – looks can be deceiving.
Purple Loosestrife may be attractive, but it is an invasive species… Purple loosestrife came to North America originally from Europe and Asia. The loosestrife seeds were unintentionally brought to North America in the ballast of ships and introduced into the Great Lakes region in the 1800’s.
The Purple Loosestrife that was actually sold here in the U.S. and promoted as being sterile was in response to the beautiful but evil thing. People had figured out that purple loosestrife was bad but they were still trying to redeem it in a way - and keep it in the garden.
The sterile purple loosestrife, sold in local garden centers, turned out to be not so sterile. With a little help from bees and other insects, the "sterile" loosestrife found a way to multiply and introduce itself into new areas. Purple loosestrife failed the cultivation containment experiment in a grand fashion.
While some were trying to make purple loosestrife harmless, the wild plant was going wild. Each “wild” plant can produce hundreds of seeds that easily spread. The plants grow, multiply and create more seeds. Thus, infiltrating nearby wetlands and thriving in and along rivers and lakes. Wild deer will graze on the new plants but once the plant grows to about a foot high, the stalks are too woody and undesirable as a food source for wildlife.
From the middle 1800’s on, Purple Loosestrife spread along the Nation’s waterways, altering the natural eco-systems along its path. The wetland areas were really messed up by the invasion of this pretty but seriously not meant to be there plant! People fought it but purple loosestrife kept advancing.
Once a wetland is run over by loosestrife, the balance of the natural habitat is lost. Loosestrife just takes over and native plants and animals who depend on the wetlands for survival are negatively impacted by the invasion. It is awful!
Like I said, wild deer will eat some of the small plants while the song birds will eat a bit of the seed (spreading the plants into other areas) but over-all the native wildlife are forced to eat the surrounding plants and that just makes it easier for the loosestrife to spread and assure its dominance.
The following is an excerpt from an article published by the University of Nebraska:
By feeding on other species, wildlife “eats itself out of house and home.” Loss of habitat and wildlife interferes with various levels of the ecosystem and influences many recreational activities, creating a negative effect on the social and economic well-being of local communities. With the loss of recreational land for fishing, boating and hunting, the local communities also lose tourism revenues. Stevan Knezevic, Extension Integrated Weed Management Specialist Doug Smith, Dixon County Noxious Weed Control Superintendent
From what I've read, Purple Loosestrife had made its way to Nebraska by the 1950's. It is estimated that 18,000 acres are already infested by purple loosestrife. Attempts to eradicate this invasive species have proven to be impossible – as the Great Lakes Region can attest. Now, those in agriculture, weed control, flood control, tourism and recreation are simply trying to figure out how to live with this plant and attempt to control and mitigate the harm it does.
I bring all this up because a friend was out at the Fremont Lakes and took a picture of a beautiful purple plant. It was gorgeous and the photo was excellent. I have to admit that I am not a plant expert, but it sure looked like Purple Loosestrife to me. I recommended that she tell the Parks Superintendent of the plants location so it could be evaluated. She did pass along the information.
As we continued to discuss the purple plant, she indicated that a friend of hers had told her that she had that same plant in her garden. This made me think of the education program at KFB. It brought back how many homeowners had this plant in their yards and how we devoted considerable resources to encouraging people to remove the plants. Still - some purple loosestrife remains...
In 2001, the Nebraska Legislature declared that purple loosestrife was a noxious weed.
The Noxious Weed Control Act defines and places specific responsibilities for noxious weed control on landowners, individual counties, and the State of Nebraska. The Act is known as Title 25, Chapter 10, Nebraska Administrative Code - Noxious Weed Regulations. Under these regulations, purple loosestrife became a noxious weed as of January 2001
Soooo Purple Loosestrife - wild or "sterile" in the State of Nebraska is a Noxious Weed. Basically - It is your responsibility to remove noxious weeds from your property! Yes – even if they are pretty.
True story - My cousin had purple loosestrife growing in her garden. A Department of Utilities employee came onto her property for electrical work and he identified that purple loosestrife was growing in her garden. She was ordered to remove the plant. She did so willingly.
Keep Fremont Beautiful has always been about making our community and property beautiful. Colorful, well-tended gardens make for a better looking and more beautiful town! Noxious weeds just aren’t part of the beautiful “thing”. So when we started the KFB education program on purple loosestrife removal, most people understood the reasoning and the purpose behind the eradication process. A few did not.
One gentleman wrote a long letter to KFB and openly stated that he would defy any attempts to remove the purple loosestrife from his property. As I recall he explained how, after a long day of work, he and his wife would sit in the garden, relaxing with a glass of wine and gaze upon the beauty of the plants and the quiet of the night. Perhaps he mentioned something concerning a sunset or maybe it was clouds drifting across the horizon… he painted a pretty picture.
I wasn’t swayed. A lot of bad stuff comes in pretty packaging – looks can be deceiving. If your happiness depends on your ability to have noxious weeds in your garden… perhaps you are weird and should get some counseling. Seriously – habitat destruction – the loss of millions of acres of farmland – loss to the local economy - the loss of recreation areas – increased potential for flooding… you are seeming a tad selfish there, buddy! Sorry – no – I’m not sorry. Get rid of the loosestrife… dig it up and put it in a bag – double bag that damn plant and put it in the trash.
Wow – that felt kind of good. Now that I am not working for KFB, I can express myself a little more freely – it’s my blog. I'm sure I was more diplomatic in my reply to the gentleman at the time - maybe not! Anyway - There will always be a stubborn few who will not follow the rules – they will insist that the plant is beautiful, therefore, they will keep it in their garden.
Hopefully, some may be enlightened by reading this little blog. They may even be moved to do the right thing and remove the plant. Or maybe they will share this entry with others - encouraging them to look for and remove any purple loosestrife that has infested a wetland or "natural area" of their property.
Back in the day, when I was writing a column for Keep Fremont Beautiful I often signed off with the tag line... "Together we can make Fremont a cleaner, healthier and more beautiful place in which to live." It was a true statement then and it is a true statement now. Everyone plays a part. You now know the difference between right and wrong - just do the right thing and remove the loosestrife or report it when you spot it!