Friday, January 8, 2016

Weeds of Fortune

Native Ironweed and Downy Sunflower Baldwinsville, NY
Native New York Ironweed & Downy Sunflower

Pulling Together to Eradicate Phragmites

 Our farming forefathers identified most native wildflowers as weeds because they interfered with good pasture growth. [Consider Ironweed, Butterfly weed, Joe-Pye weed and Milkweed] Further, when cows ate certain native flowers the milk would taste bitter rendering them unusable. 

 Today, folks understand that native wild flowers are critical part of our environment. They are a food source for birds, native pollinators, butterflies and some mammals. In addition, some plants serve as a unique host for the propagation of certain butterflies and other pollinators. For example, the Monarch butterfly will only lay its eggs on one of the many varieties of milkweeds. 

Weed of Misfortune

Wildflower garden McHarrie Town, Baldwinsville, NY, USA
Wildflower garden McHarrie Towne, Baldwinsville, NY, USA

 Phragmites  are an  extremely invasive non-native plant that is overtaking uncut pasture land in our area. Drive along the Thruway, 481, and 690 and you will see them dominating the roadside. They are closely growing plants six to ten feet high with a foxtail like tuff that often are referred to as “Foxtails”. 

 Drive over to the parking lot at McHarrie Place and look toward 690; you will see that Phragmites are blanketing the fence line and overtaking the two ponds and wetland there. You can also see Phragmites growing in the un-mowed area next to the McHarrie Towne vegetable garden and in other places within the park.

Vernonia noveboracensis
Vernonia noveboracensis

 Phragmities easily overtake native wild flowers and could become the primary plant in the non-mowed McHarrie Towne landscape. More troubling, to my knowledge, they are not a food source or habitat for birds, butterflies and native pollinators.

 Phragmites  are a multiple treat with exponential growth in almost all soil conditions. Their tall seed pods permit long- range carry and, most disturbing; their root-like tendrils are very difficult to remove. For example, if you try pulling for removal the roots break off setting up a new center for growth.

 Our Canadian neighbors understand the problem and currently using herbicides to eradicate this threat. The DEC has used “Roundup” for control in the new Massena (New York) area bird sanctuary. Staten Island is introducing legislation to control this pest because the old dried plants are a serious fire hazard.

Phragmities - Baldwinsville, New York, USA


Please understand I have no pedigree in this field and based upon observations and related reading I am merely expressing concerns . It my hope that others in the community will recognize the long term challenge of this “Weed of Misfortune”.

 Note: For interest, I am attaching photos of the beautiful blue Ironweed plant taken in the now- removed Rifts Drive butterfly garden. Roger Dahlin- Baldwinsville, New York, USA

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Dad for being the type of person who sees there is a problem and does something about it! I will bring pots of Cup Plants with me next time I visit. Perhaps on a small scale they have the strength and fortitude to challenge the Weeds of Misfortune!