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Biting the Bullet

Priscilla, my landscaper friend, gently mentioned that dame’s rocket is so invasive we should prevent seed from spreading, if we must grow the plant. I thought “that’s ridiculous; it’s no problem to me; I love that plant, and I want more” ... and conveniently forgot her advice.

Then I got clobbered with two plants that have been problems (euonymus and lamiastrum), smothering other plants I love — and I began to pay more attention to a plant’s invasiveness.

Finally I saw dame’s rocket on the list of invasive plants published by the Massachusetts Invasive Plant Group (MIPG), and I remembered Priscilla’s warning. My heart sank. I‘d been planning to spread some from my plants around my yard more, and I’d also just gotten some from a friend, whose plants flower in a deeper purple. Maybe I could get along with what I had of the pale-flowered plants, and let myself sow the darker ones?

Almost all invasive plants were purposefully introduced because they’re pretty.

Janet McFarland is Education Director of the conservation organization Beaver Brook Association in Hollis, New Hampshire. A previous owner of her house sowed a hillside field with seed labeled “Wildlife Mix.” Unfortunately it contained several species that are not only non-native, but also viciously invasive, including Asian honeysuckles, and multiflora rose. McFarland cleared it out; the thugs grew back.

Another conservation organization recently discovered that part of their own landscaping was invasive.

Dr. David Leff chairs the Connecticut Invasive Plants Council. In his yard, goutweed is taking over a favorite stretch of pachysandra. He’s tried pulling it up, but it keeps coming back. I listened to the heartbreak in his voice, and thought about the three times I tried unsuccessfully to get goutweed to grow, for its variegated leaves.

I think every gardener has some experience with invasive plants. Naturally we feel embarrassed, or defensive and stubborn, or confused or sad ... but by sharing our stories, appreciating without blame, we can support each other. These three motivated me.

By the time I decided to be responsible and remove the seed from the dame’s rocket all over my yard, much of it had already been released to the wind. I went around with a trash bag anyway, not only to catch what was left, but to start getting myself in the habit of doing this every year. The saddest part was putting into the bag that spray of seed pods from my friend’s deep purple flowers.

Photos by C.H. Clark -
  • top picture: Dame's rocket flowering in May.
  • bottom picture: The long slender seed pods of dame's rocket droop gracefully over upright vertical naked hosta flower scapes in October.

Text and photos © Copyright 2004 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 5 November 2004

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