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The history behind that pretty face

There's a pretty flower that's popping up over the countryside in shades of white and pink and mauve. I dug some of it up many years ago and was happy when it flourished on my property. Now that I garden with native plants, I'm not so pleased with its enthusiastic self-seeding ways, and I'm busy pulling it out.
Locals call it wild phlox, but its proper name is Dame's Rocket and it comes from Eurasia. A similar plant will be in flower soon, pale pink, harder to pull up if it arrives uninvited because of roots that send out runners – it's called Bouncing Bet and is native to Europe and western Siberia.
The wildflowers that we enjoy as an expression of nature and wilderness are more likely to be a manifestation of colonization – the wilderness of other continents, disrupting native ecosystems. This was bought home to me when I made a list last June of herbaceous plants in bloom at Tiny Marsh, part of work for a two-year biological inventory led by environmental consultant Bob Bowles. Only one quarter (7 out of 29) of the plants we tallied were native; the rest were introduced, mainly from Europe.
Here's the list:
Native
Common Fleabane Erigeron philadelphicus
Daisy Fleabane Erigeron annuus
Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca
Marsh Vetchling Lathyrus palustris
Swamp Milkweed Asclepias incarnate
Sweet-scented Bedstraw Galium triflorum
White Avens Geum canadense
Introduced
Alfalfa Medicago sativo
Birdsfoot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus
Bladder Campion Silene cucubalus
Common Dandelion Taraxacum officinale
Common St. John's Wort Hypericum perforatum
Yellow Hawkweed Hieracium caespitosum
Climbing Nightshade Solanum dulcamara
Common Sow Thistle Sonchus oleraceus
Narrow-leafed Plantain Plantago lanceolata
Heal-all Prunella vulgaris
Least Hop Clover Trifolium dubium
Lesser Stitchwort Stellaria graminea
Oxeye Daisy Chrysanthemum leucanthemum
Red Clover Trifolium pretense
Silvery Cinquefoil Potentilla argentea
Tall Buttercup Ranunculus acris
Tufted Vetch Vicia cracca
Viper's Bugloss Echium vulgare
White Clover Trifolium repens
White Sweet Clover Melilotus alba
Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Yellow Sweet Clover Melilotus officionalis
This is the comment from Bowles' report:
"There is no prospect of removing all introduced species; and no point unless they are demonstrated to be invasive and presenting a threat to Marsh ecosystems. However, it should be noted that native plants are the ones that are host to the native insects that are at the base of the wetland's food chain. Introduced plant species do not support a wide range of insect life and make up what have been dubbed "green deserts," devoid of insects and the life they support.
"Efforts should be made to ensure native plant communities at Tiny Marsh remain cohesive and unfragmented and do not get broken up and crowded out by opportunistic invaders. An additional reason for protecting native species presently growing at the Marsh is that they are uniquely genetically suited to conditions at the Marsh, in a way that cannot be matched by native plantings brought in from elsewhere. This genetic heritage needs to be preserved."
Valued wildflower or unwanted weed? There's a lot more a plant than a pretty face. If you want to learn about what's growing in our natural spaces, you might be interested in the Tiny Marsh BioBlitz being held on Saturday June 27. It's a day-long series of excursions into the marsh with a variety of leaders (including Bob Bowles) with expertise in a variety of fields – not only plants, but birds and butterflies and amphibians and much more. For details, go to www.mtmconservaton.org.
Mary Nason
- 8 October 2015 at 01:50pm

Took our 2 youngest grandsons 6 and 7 to BioBlitz and learned a lot from the assessment of all the plants growing in Tiny Marsh. Had no idea of all the variety. Interesting about the comments on the native plants and imported ones at the Wye Marsh. We have been encouraging more Milkweed on our beach out front so "Don't step on the Milkweed" was a common refrain all summer with 6 grandkids visiting. A surprise for everyone was a chrysalis hanging on the back of a garden chair which was a first for all of us and exciting for the kids to watch. The only one still here when the Monarch emerged was our Australian grandson 7 yrs old and he had the pleasure on the day he was leaving of holding the new beautiful butterfly on his finger for a few moments while it exercised and dried its wings which will always be a very special moment for him and us. Thank you Kate for all you do for the environment.
Kate Harries
- 9 October 2015 at 09:29pm

Great to hear about the milkweed on the beach.... and the lovely moment with your grandson - it's so great to see the kids connecting
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