Photo by Rob Routledge, Sault College, Bugwood.org
Purple loosestrife is a rhizomatous perennial forb. Wild infestations are associated with moist or marshy sites. The stems are erect (1.5 to 8 or more feet tall) and four to six angled, and can be smooth or pubescent with few branches. Leaves are simple (0.75 to 4 inches long, 0.2 to 0.5 inch wide), entire, and can be opposite or whorled.
The most identifiable characteristic of purple loosestrife is the striking rose to purple flowers. The flowers are arranged on a spike, which can be a few inches to 3 feet long. Each flower has five to seven petals arising from a cylindrical green tube. The plant usually flowers from early July to mid-September in North Dakota. The seed capsule is two-celled and contains many very small seeds (1 millimeter long or less). The roots become thick and woody in mature plants. The aerial shoots die in the fall and new shoots arise the following spring from buds at the top of the root crown. Although the root crown expands and produces more shoots each year, the maximum growth of the root crown diameter is limited to about 20 inches.
Three biocontrol insect species first were released in North Dakota in 1997. They are:
Galerucella pusilla — a leaf-feeding beetle
Galerucella calmariensis — a leaf-feeding beetle
Hylobius transversovittatus — a root-mining weevil
Of these insects, the two Galerucella spp. leaf-feeding beetles have been most successful. These insects overwinter as adults and lay eggs in early June in North Dakota. The adults and especially the larvae feed on the leaves and flowers of purple loosestrife. Following several summers of heavy feeding, purple loosestrife infestations have been reduced greatly. However, since the largest infestations in North Dakota are in urban areas, mosquito control programs have kept these insects from becoming well established.
From Lym and Travnicek, 2015, NDSU Circ. W-1411.