Plant Invaders

Purple loosestrife is pretty, but it"s an aggressive invasive plant now threatening Alaska.© Photos to Go

The Kenai Peninsula is often named as one of the most diverse and beautiful regions of Alaska. The vast majority of the peninsula lies within public lands, including national and state parks, a wildlife refuge and a national forest (see Going Green, "Alaska in Miniature," July/August 1998). Today, there’s a major threat to its wetlands. An invasive plant called purple loosestrife (native to Europe) has been found growing wild in nearby Anchorage for the first time. "This plant, if it were to get established in Potter Marsh, would absolutely cover the marsh and there would be no more geese, no ducks, no terns, and no swans," warns Michael Shephard, a plant ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service."The varieties sold in nurseries are supposed to be sterile, and the Anchorage growing season was thought too short to allow it to seed and spread," says Julie Riley, a horticulturist with the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service."This is a really horrific wetland invader pretty much across North America," says Jamie Snyder, an invasive plant specialist with the Cooperative Extension Service.