DUC staff and volunteers spent an August day at Corner Brook Marsh in Newfoundland pulling up pretty purple flowers. Using their trowels, they made sure they dug up all of the roots. They didn’t want the plants growing back.
It’s not that they didn’t like the look of the bright fronds swaying in the breeze between cattails. But purple loosestrife is an invasive species in North America. It takes over wetland ecosystems, chokes out native plants and leaves less food for waterfowl and other wildlife to eat.
“Once an invasive species like purple loosestrife gets established in an ecosystem, it’s very difficult to remove,” says DUC conservation specialist Emma Bocking. “That’s why we made it a priority to remove as many plants as possible this year, before the population has a chance to really take hold in the marsh.”
Staff realized that purple loosestrife was growing in Corner Brook Marsh thanks to local volunteer Jason Foster, who noticed the plants while on a walk with his daughter earlier this summer. Foster has a background in environmental stewardship and management, and purple loosestrife was one of the plants he often told people to keep an eye out for.
The team of nine volunteers and three DUC staff members canoed between islands in the marsh, pulling up plants as they went. The team will continue to monitor the area over the next couple of years to see if and how the purple loosestrife comes back.
One thing DUC staff are interested in learning is how problematic purple loosestrife is in Newfoundland and Labrador, compared to the mainland. Stands of purple loosestrife don’t tend to spread as quickly across the province as they do in warmer parts of the country. And the plants may be beneficial for insects and pollinators.
This project demonstrates the importance of engaging the community through conservation. Not only does it strengthen everyone’s connections to natural places, Foster says, “local people have their eyes on the ground; they’re a vital resource for conservation agencies.”