A new threat to the environment has arrived in Norfolk County!

Purple Loose Strife – often called Beautiful Killer!

Silver Lake is beginning to blossom with fields of Purple Loosestrife.

We must take action now to protect Norfolk County. The spread of Purple Loosestrife poses a huge threat to our ecosystem, to the biodiversity of habitat for indigenous wildlife and plant species, and eventual impact on agriculture lands in the vicinity.  In the summer of 2010, we saw the  first stage infestation of purple loosestrife pictured above. The budgeted dam repair and first phase of dredging in the lake was expected to address this problem with initial work completed this summer. The red tape of bureaucracy moves at its own pace leaving us facing year 3 of an environmental threat posed to move quickly into adjacent agricultural lands with impact on our coveted reputation as being Ontario’s food market garden.  The picture above was taken August 2010 just after the water in the lake was lowered. The infestation is just beginning to flower now. For a full understanding on the issues involved, please read the article below taken from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources website.

While the task of protecting our environment from invasive species falls within the portfolio of the Ministry of Environment , the issue has impact for the Ministry of Natural Resources (biodiversity & wildlife)  and the Ministry of Agriculture (food industry).   It is imperative that we contact all ministry contacts immediately.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

1. Environment Canada’s mandate is to preserve and enhance the quality of the natural environment, including water, air, soil, flora and fauna. You can report sightings online at http://www.invadingspecies.com or you can all the Invading Species hotline at 1-800-563-7711.  This same hotline is also listed on the Ministry of Natural Resources website as well.

Another contact for MOE is Environment Canada
Canadian Wildlife Service, 4905 Dufferin Street, Downsview, ON, M3H 5T4  (416) 739-4986

2.  The Ministry of Agriculture can be alerted to this threat by calling the Agricultural Information Contact Centre at 1-877-424-1300  or using the Agricultural Information Feedback Form or  sending an e-mail to ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca . If you wish to contact the Minister directly, you can use the Comments to the Minister feedback  form listed on the ministry website.

3. Diane Finley has demonstrated support for Norfolk County Agriculture when she announced an investment of $416,505 to the Norfolk County Agricultural Society for upgrades and beautification of the Norfolk County Fairgrounds. This investment will create immediate employment to support the local economy under the Community Adjustment Fund (CAF) in Southern Ontario. She will be concerned that this investment may be at risk.

Diane Finley Simcoe Office, 76 Kent Street South, Simcoe, ON, N3Y 2Y1
Tel: 519-426-3400   E: diane.finley@parl.gc.ca

4. Toby Barrett, our Provincial MP can be contacted as follows:

Tel: 1-800-963-8629  E. toby.barrett@pc.ola.org

5. Norfolk County staff who have interests in the future of agriculture in the area are listed as follows:

Ted Willey

Norfolk County Agriculture Partners
(519) 426-5870 ext. 1300

ted.willey@norfolkcounty.ca

Linda D’hondt-Crandon

Norfolk County Agriculture Advisory Council

(519) 426-5870 ext.1264

linda.dhondt-crandon@norfolkcounty.ca

Clark Hoskin

Manager, Tourism and Economic Development

(519) 426-5870 ext.1238

clark.hoskin@norfolkcounty.ca

Purple loosestrife, a beautiful but aggressive invader, arrived in eastern North America in the early 1800s. Plants were brought to North America by settlers for their flower gardens, and seeds were present in the ballast holds of European ships that used soil to weigh down the vessels for stability on the ocean. Since it was introduced, purple loosestrife has spread westward and can be found across much of Canada and the United States.

Characteristics

Flower: Each flower spike is made up of many individual flowers. Individual flowers are small and have five or six pink-purple petals surrounding small, yellow centers. Purple loose strife generally flowers from late June to early September and require pollination by insects or birds.

Seed Capsule: As flowers begin to drop off, capsules containing many tiny seeds appear in their place. Depending on where you live, plants may go to seed as early as late July.

Seed: Each mature plant can have more than thirty flowering stems which can produce up to 2.7 million seeds annually. As tiny as grains of sand, seeds are easily spread by water, wind, wildlife and humans. Germination can occur the following season and in many environmental conditions. Seeds are hardy and can lay dormant in the seed bank for several years before sprouting. Ornamental “seedless” cultivars have been shown to produce viable seeds when fertilized with pollen from naturalized populations.

Leaves: Leaves are downy, with smooth edges. They are usually arranged opposite each other in pairs which alternate down the stalk at 90° angles, however, they may also appear in groups of three.

Stalk: Stalks are square, five or six-sided, woody, as tall as 2 m (6.5 ft) with several stalks on mature plants.

Perennial Rootstock: Mature plants can reproduce vegetatively with underground stems that can spread at a rate of 25 cm (9.8 in) each year. On mature plants, root-stock are extensive and can send out up to 30 to 50 shoots, creating a dense web which chokes out other plant life.

Distribution

Purple loosestrife is now found throughout most of North America with the exception of Mexico, Florida and northern Canada. Currently, the area of greatest concentration and impact has been in southern Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and adjacent areas in the northeastern United States. The spread of this plant occurs primarily on disturbed soils of recently built roads, canals, railway lines and cultivated areas. It appears purple loosestrife thrives in areas of populated places with connecting roadways and degraded and disturbed wetland habitats. Purple loosestrife can also invade healthy wetland habitats and since seeds can be spread by water, it can spread within the watershed. Most of the isolated incidents of purple loosestrife have likely resulted from intentional introductions or escapes from ornamental gardens.

Impact

Purple loosestrife is a very hardy perennial which can rapidly degrade wetlands, diminishing their value for wildlife habitat. Wetlands are the most biologically diverse, productive part of our ecosystem. Hundreds of species of plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, fish and amphibians rely on healthy wetland habitat for their survival. When purple loosestrife gets a foothold, it forms a dense monoculture, replacing native plant species and the habitat where fish and wildlife feed, seek shelter, reproduce and rear young.

Since purple loosestrife can invade drier sites, concern is increasing as the plant becomes more common on agricultural land, encroaching on farmers’ crops and pasture land. The spread of purple loosestrife also has a direct economic impact when plants clog irrigation or drainage ditches on farmlands or cause degradation and loss of forage value of lowland pastures. An estimated 190,000 hectares of wetlands, marshes, pastures and riparian meadows are affected in North America each year, with an economic impact of millions of dollars.

Prevention

The best time to control purple loosestrife is in June, July and early August when it is in flower and easy to recognize before it goes to seed. Hand-digging young plants can be done in an area with a small infestation. Cutting the flowers stalks before they go to seed also ensures that seeds will not produce future plants. Proper disposal of the plant to ensure that seeds do not contaminate other areas is important. This can be done by putting plants in plastic bags that will remain intact at the landfill site. Plants can also be incinerated. Chemical control (herbicide) is another form of control but should only be used on individual plants, in dry, upland areas and on your own property.

Many organizations throughout North America have taken action to control the spread of purple loosestrife. National wildlife services, state/provincial natural resource and environment agencies, universities, nursery trades associations, and conservation and community organizations have responded to the purple loosestrife invasion by raising awareness of the threat posed by this invasive plant, and how to prevent its spread.

Check out Purple Loose Strife in Manitoba

The Federal, Provincial and Regional governments and Ducks Unlimited worked in partnership to carry out a 3 year project to eliminate Purple Loose Strife in recognition that their agricultural industry faced danger of being demolished.

Norfolk County plays a key role in supplying South West Ontario with fruits and vegetables. Agriculture is a key industry for us and we must take steps to preserve it.

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One Response to “A new threat to the environment has arrived in Norfolk County!”

  1. Louise Says:

    Very good, but – a picture is worth a thousand words – how about a closeup ‘portrait’ of this plant (even if everyone knows what it looks like).


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