Please contact your local agricultural extension specialist or county weed specialist to learn what works best in your area and how to use it safely. Always read label and safety instructions for each control method. Trade names and control measures appear in this document only to provide specific information. USDA, NRCS does not guarantee or warranty the products and control methods named, and other products may be equally effective.
An important consideration in controlling purple loosestrife is its prolific seed production, the ease with which seeds are dispersed, and their ability to remain viable for several years. Also, this plant can spread vegetatively by resprouting from stem and rootstock cuttings. Other considerations in selecting control methods are their detrimental effects on native species and the possibility for reinvasion by purple loosestrife or other exotic species. In addition, native plants of similar appearance should not be subjected to control. Purple loosestrife may superficially resemble plants of the mint family or species of the genera Epilobium and Liatris. Proper identification is an important consideration in controlling exotic loosestrife.
In natural areas, it may be more feasible to contain populations of purple loosestrife than control them. Large populations extending over one hectare or more will be difficult to eradicate. Containing them may be more feasible. Removing plants or applying herbicides to ones extending beyond the main population can accomplish this. If loosestrife cannot be eradicated, efforts should then concentrate on keeping it from invading the highest quality areas (Butterfield et al., 1996.
Manual, Mechanical, and Replacement: Mowing, burning, and flooding are largely ineffective. Cutting followed by flooding so that cut plant stalks are completely immersed has shown some success. However, flooding may encourage the spread of purple loosestrife seed present in the soil and may result in the regeneration of new plants from stem fragments. Mature plants can withstand short-term immersion. Burning is largely ineffective and it may also stress native plants and subsequently enhance loosestrifes’ competitive advantage (Butterfield et al., 1996).
Hand removal is effective for small populations and isolated plants. Younger plants (one to two years old) can be pulled by hand. Plants should be removed, prior to seed set, with minimal disturbance to the soil. Removal after seed-set will scatter the seeds. The entire rootstock must be pulled out because of the potential for regeneration from root fragments. A hand cultivator or similar implement will be helpful for older plants, especially those in deep organic soils. Uprooted plants and broken stems need to be removed from the site since such fragments can re-sprout. Bagging plants for removal will prevent their spread along the exit route. Follow-up treatments are recommended for three years after plants are removed. Clothing and equipment used during plant removal should be cleaned to remove contaminating seeds.
Replacement control has been attempted in several wildlife refuges. Research has shown that Japanese millet (Echinochloa frumentacea Link) seedlings outcompete purple loosestrife seedlings. The millet must be planted immediately after marsh drawdown and replanted each year because it does not regenerate well. Replacement seeding trials using native pale smartweed (Polygonum lapathifolium L.) showed that it also out-competed purple loosestrife. Replacement methods have obvious limited application in natural areas, but they may provide control of loosestrife populations on bordering property (Butterfield et al. 1996).
Herbicide Control: Various chemical treatments have been used on purple loosestrife with varying success. Many herbicides are not specific to purple loosestrife and may not be specifically licensed for such use. Label directions for application and use according to local, state, and federal regulations must always be observed.
In areas with populations exceeding 100 plants (up to 1.6 ha in size) where hand-pulling is not feasible, application of a glyphosate herbicide to individual purple loosestrife plants provides effective control Glyphosate is available under the trade names Roundup® and Rodeo®. Rodeo is registered for use over open water and is the most commonly used herbicide to control purple loosestrife. Glyphosate is nonselective and can kill desirable plants associated with loosestrife if applied carelessly. Application to the tops of plants alone can be effective and limits exposure of non-target species (Butterfield et al. 1996).
Herbicide treatment should be conducted as early as possible during the manufacturer's recommended time of application in order to kill the plants and prevent seed production. Application is most effective when plants have just begun flowering. Timing is important because seed set can occur if plants are in mid- to late flower. Where possible, the flower heads should be cut, bagged, and removed from the site prior to application to prevent seed set. Rodeo applied as a 1.5% solution (2 oz. Rodeo/gallon clean water) with the addition of a wetting agent, as specified on the label has been shown to provide control. Another option, which may be more effective, is to apply glyphosate twice during the growing season. The plants should be sprayed as described above when flowering has just started and a second time two to three weeks later (Butterfield et al. 1996).
Application of ghyphosate from a vehicle-mounted sprayer is generally necessary in areas with extensive stands of purple loosestrife. The most effective control can be achieved by beginning treatment at the periphery of large patches and working toward the center in successive years. This technique allows native vegetation to re-invade the treated area as the loosestrife in eliminated (Butterfield et al. 1996).
A combination of 2,4-D and Banvel® (dicamba) has been used on a limited basis. This formulation is broadleaf specific and apparently would not hurt the dominants if sprayed in a cattail marsh or communities dominated by rushes, sedges, and grasses. Spraying produces good control once loosestrife has reached 10-15% of its mature growth. Treatment is more effective if repeated once during the growing season (Butterfield et al. 1996).
Biological Control: Several biological control agents have the potential to aid in the control of purple loosestrife. Of 120 species of phytophagous insects associated with purple loosestrife in its natural range in Europe, 14 species were considered host-specific to the target plant. From this group, six species have been selected as the most promising for biological control. These species were a root-mining weevil, Hylobius transversovittatus Goeze, which attacks the main storage tissue of purple loosestrife; two leaf-eating beetles, Galerucella calmariensis L., and G. pusilla Duftschmid, which are capable of completely defoliating the plant; two flower-feeding beetles, Nanophyes marmoratus Goeze and N. brevis Boheman, which severely reduce seed production; and a gall midge, Bayeriola salicariae Kieffer, which similarly reduces seed production by attacking the flower buds. Five of the six species are found throughout its range in Europe and the sixth, N. brevis, is restricted to southern Europe (Malecki et al. 1993; Weedin et al. 1996).
The most promising insects appear to be the root-mining weevil, H. transversovittatus, and the two leaf-eating beetles, G. calmariensis and G. pusilla, because of their broad geographic ranges and the amount of damage done to the host plant. In June of 1992, all three species were approved by USDA, APHIS for introduction into the United States. The insects were released in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington. Releases were also approved in Canada (Malecki et al. 1993).
The two Galerucella species successfully over-wintered and began oviposition at all release sites. The other species, H. transversovittatus, was proving more difficult to establish, because of its long life cycle and low fecundity. The investigators predict that all three species will become established throughout the North American range of purple loosestrife. Furthermore, H. transversovittatus is expected to have the greatest negative impact to L. salicaria. However, a combination of various phytophagous insects will provide greater control than any one species. Control of purple loosestrife will be achieved more rapidly in mixed plant communities where competition for space and nutrients is greater. A reduction in the abundance of purple loosestrife to approximately 10% of its current level over about 90% of its range is expected (Malecki et al. 1993).
In order to evaluate the potential of fungus pathogens to control purple loosestrife, a survey was conducted on fungi associated with that plant. During the three year study, 5265 fungal isolates were obtained. Thirty-one taxa were found that had not previously been reported from purple loosestrife. Tests for the pathogenicity to purple loosestrife are being tested (Nyvall 1995).
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