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Invasive Plant Found Along Lake George

Lake George Association

Advocates for Lake George are taking steps to monitor and prevent the spread of an invasive species along the lakeshore that could threaten native butterfly populations. 

Kristen Rohne, Education Coordinatior for the Lake George Association, said while her organization was checking on a native-plant buffer garden at the Rainbow Beach Homeowners Association in the Town of Bolton, a homeowner asked her team to take a closer look at a plant he hadn’t seen before, growing along the shoreline.

“So of course he took us over there and showed us and asked us what this vine was, and sure enough it was the black swallow-wort,” said Rhone.

Now the LGA is working with others to monitor the lake and ask property owners to keep an eye out for this invader. Rhone described the plant as a vine that grows tall, and can choke out other native plants. It’s identifiable by its star-shaped, dark purple or black flowers, and seed pods, similar to native milkweed, the favorite food of monarch butterflies.

Rohne said the swallow-wort competes with milkweed, and that can have damaging effects on monarch populations.

“And so if they lay their eggs on the swallow-wort, when those eggs hatch the caterpillars don’t have food to eat like the milkweed,” said Rohne.

Rhone said populations of the plant are being mapped on iMapInvasives, an online tool where users can report and see the locations of several invasive species.

Hilary Smith, Director of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, said swallow-wort species are highly aggressive and adaptable, and because they’re in the milkweed family, its seeds can easily be spread by the wind.

Smith said the black swallow-wort and pale swallow-wort have been found across New York, but are relatively limited in the Adirondacks. Within the park, swallow-wort has been mostly found within the Champlain Valley, and higher concentrations occur north of the park. She said the plants are on APIPP’s list of Target Priority Species for Detection and Rapid Response.

“We want citizens and our partner organizations and state agencies to be on high alert for small infestations of these species so we can quickly responde before they have a chance to spread,” said Smith.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo previously declared this week as Invasive Species Awareness week.

NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Director of Invasive Species Field Control Bob O’Brien spoke with WAMC earlier this week.

“People have to be aware and awareness leads to early detection. Early detection is the very best way and the most economical way to resolve and eliminate populations of invasive species.”

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Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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