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LOOKING AT THE MIRROR: Watching for invasive plant species around Mirror Lake

October 12, 2018
By JESSICA WIMETT , Lake Placid News

Most of us have encountered them - hiking along riverbeds and trail sides, lining roadsides and fields, peppered on the boundaries of lakes and ponds.

Often brightly flowered or beautifully foliated, invasive species have crept their way into the Adirondacks. They are transported here through a wide variety of vehicles and hosts - from inside birds' bellies to the bilges of boats and from accidental plantings to ornamental oversights. The spread of some these invasive plant species have found their way onto the shoreline of Mirror Lake.

One such plant that the Mirror Lake Watershed Association has closely watched and managed, is purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). This plant is native to Europe and Asia, but was introduced to North America as an ornamental garden plant. This conical, herbaceous perennial is quite the looker; with brilliant fuchsia flowers that bloom from July through September. This plant can grow to a height of 3 to 6 feet tall, and spreads aggressively through mass seed dispersal.

Article Photos

Purple loosestrife
(Photo provided)

Owning to its striking beauty, it would be easy to dismiss the spread of loosestrife as a happy accident or a welcome flower to add as a pollinator offering. On the contrary, loosestrife is not a benign guest. As it moves into an area, it dramatically alters the ecological make-up of the area by choking out the native plants and filling in areas where native fish and wildlife nest and feed.

According to the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, this plant has already been responsible for the degradation of 190,000 hectares of ecologically sensitive land and has cost millions of dollars in damages. In an effort to control the spread of purple loosestrife on the shores and riparian zones surrounding Mirror Lake, there has been a decade-long initiative to remove these plants before they have a chance to establish old-growth stands with hearty root systems. Through the work of dedicated volunteers, including those from the MLWA, hundreds of young loosestrife plants are pulled each year.

The best time to pull purple loosestrife is late June, July and early August, before the plant produces its seeds. If removing after the plant has gone to seed, great care must be taken not to shake them loose from the flowering spikes. Cutting off the seedy spikes (over a collection bag) before pulling them up ensures that further spread of the plant is contained.

Once pulled, proper transport and disposal of this waste material is critical. All plant material should be put in a black plastic bag to fully rot in the sun before composting.

Another beautiful, albeit disastrous plant that has found its way to the shores of Mirror Lake, is the yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus), or yellow flag. Native to Europe, Asia, and Africa, this perennial flowering plant grows in freshwater wetland systems and, like purple loosestrife, chokes out native plants. Yellow Iris expands rapidly through rhizome growth, which can survive harsh conditions and lay dormant in the soil for years.

Its ephemeral yellow flowers bloom through the early spring, giving way to large seed pods which drop seeds into the water that float away and establish new colonies. Removal before the flower has gone to seed is thus preferred, however care must be taken when handling the yellow flag as the sap is a skin irritant, and all parts of this plant are toxic to animals. Because the rhizomes can easily regenerate, even if mowed or cut, clumps of the plants must be dug out entirely.

This past summer, APIPP was alerted to the growth of yellow flag along Mirror Lake, and their roots systems were destroyed in this advised manor.

We are lucky to have such observant and caring citizen stewards keeping sentinel over Mirror Lake, ensuring that these invasive species and others have little time to establish perennial root systems and overtake these fragile ecosystems. For more information on the MLWA, please visit us at our website: For more on purple loosestrife, yellow iris, or other invasive species in the Adirondacks, please visit the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program at



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