purple loosestrife indiana dunes

Purple Loosestrife

Lythrum salicaria L.

Family:     Lythraceae (Loosestrife family)

Duration:  Perennial

Height:     0.5 - 1.5 m (1.6 - 5 ft)

Blooming: July - October

indiana loosestrife purple

Stem: Most often hairy especially higher up the plant.  It can get a little woody with 30-50 stems coming from one rootstock.

Flowers: brilliant red to purple petals.  There are usually 12 stamens (boy parts).  Five to seven sepals and petals, but most of the time it is 6-parted.  The inflorescence can grow up to 40 cm (16 in) long like a purplish-red, evil magic wand.  

Leaves: oppositely arranged, often clasping on the stem.  Sometimes the leaves are arranged in a whorl of three.

Fruits: two chambered capsule with lots and lots of seeds.  There are estimations of two to three million seeds per year per plant.

Comments: Purple loosestrife is listed as one of the top 100 "world's worst invaders".  It was used heavily in the landscape trade and escaped rampantly throughout the wetlands.  It is native to Eurasia.   You will more than likely see this growing in ditches throughout northwest Indiana.

The little beetles, Galerucella calmariensis and G. pusilla, was introduced in the late 1990's from Europe and has helped keep this aggressive plant a little at bay.  

This plant may be pretty, but it is pretty bad.  If you have it on your property, you should remove it and replace it with marsh blazing star (Liatris spicata).  For more information on this invasive weed,you can visit the links below.

It is illegal to sale any part of the plant in Indiana.

IC 14-24-12-7 

Sec. 7.

A person may not: (1) sell; (2) offer for sale; (3) give away; (4) plant; or (5) otherwise distribute; seeds, roots, or plants of any species of lythrum in Indiana unless the person has a permit issued by the division director authorizing the planting or distribution of lythrum.

all photos by Nathanael Pilla

Etymology: The word, salicaria, means "like a willow".  This refers to its willow like leaves.  The genus, Lythrum, comes from the Greek word, luthron, which means "blood".  This is in reference to the color of the flowers.