plant proves problematic
invades state wetlands
of the Northwestern
GREEN LAKE -- Dave Burbach is working to make sure a growing
problem with purple loosestrife is kept in check.
typical cutting, burning and flooding just doesnt
control the spread, said Burbach, who has been working
for about five years to prevent the marshland-constricting
growth of the plant.
Burbach founded and participated in this weeks annual
Purple Loosestrife Eradication Day, which included about
two hours of cutting off the tops of the plants around
Big Green Lake and spreading small amounts of herbicide.
The workers cut off about two truckloads of plants, but
the effort was small compared with the statewide spread
of the plant.
The plant has overtaken about 40,000 acres of wetlands
around the northeastern United States and Canada.
The loosestrife first came to this country from Europe
in the early 1800s when immigrants transported it to plant
It blossomed and expanded outside those gardens, and now
it has spread to the point that the Wisconsin Wetlands
Association has been sending out volunteers to track the
plants invasion across more than a dozen counties.
In Europe, the plants growth was controlled because
it had natural predators, but none was present in this
The plants can be found in marshes, wet meadows, shorelines
and roadside ditches, and each plant releases about 2
million seeds per year.
squeezes out the natives and it rules, said Charlie
Marks, administrator of the Green Lake Sanitary District,
which is one of the sponsors of the annual eradication
He said the yearly plant cutting is held to hinder some
of the plants growth but more so to raise awareness
of the plants invasiveness. Its almost
symbolic, Marks said.
Marks said he is not trying to destroy the invasive purple
plant, and he doesnt think he could if he tried.
Marks said he is hoping to help the Green Lake area ecosystem
find a little balance.
The sheer volume of loosestrife plants is not the only
problem -- its roots too are invasive as they spread out
underground and crowd out other plants.
Burbach said there are no known species that have been
irreparably harmed by the plant. But if the spread of
loosestrife is left unchecked, he is unsure how extensive
the problem could become.
were going to control it, its going to be
by natural measures, Burbach said.
The growing problem has led to the slow, limited introduction
of the Galerucella calmarensis beetle. The tiny beetle
feeds only on loosestrife and lays its eggs on the leaves.
When the beetles were first introduced to the area ecosystem,
many died during the first winter -- leading to Burbachs
cultivation of the beetles to increase their numbers.
Each year, Burbach brings some of the plants into a controlled
environment and releases the beetles onto the plants.
The beetles then reproduce before Burbach and his students
at Markesan High School take them out to the wetlands
and place them on the plants. Burbach teaches biology
and chemistry at the school.
Burbach said the Department of Natural Resources has studied
the beetle and its effects, and doesnt foresee any
harm coming from the limited use. Burbach takes his environmental
efforts into the classroom, teaching his students about
loosestrife as well as the dangers of other non-indigenous
species such as the zebra mussel.
Billy Klitz is one of Burbachs students and a member
of his schools Environmentalists Club. Klitz estimated
he helped bag about 300 of the invasive plants Monday.
Although some call the eradication day a symbolic effort,
Klitz said it was more.
made a difference today, at least in this area,
Grekso: (920) 426-6656 or email@example.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.