Purple Loosestrife
Answered by: Richters Staff
Question from: Bryan Moroz
Posted: Before April 1998

I am one of your customers, but I am also a college student doing a major thesis on all aspects of purple loosestrife. I have noticed in your spring 1997 catalogue that you have Lythrum salicaria for sale but not available in U.S. or Canada. I think that this is a great thing that you are doing for our wetlands.

I would however like to hear a response from someone at Richters... where I would be able to gain your point of view... on this weed...

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) was introduced to eastern North America in the early 1800s. It is assumed that the first seeds arrived via ballast water that was discharged into the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. The plant has proliferated in wetland habitats where it has displaced native species, upsetting the food chain in these fragile ecosystems. Wetland and waterfowl managers are concerned about the damage purple loosestrife is causing. Attempts to control its spread have been unsuccessful.

Despite controversy over the relative importance of escapes from gardens, many jurisdictions have moved to ban the sale or cultivation of purple loosestrife. The U.S. state of Minnesota was one of the first to do so.

Why does Richters continue to offer seeds? The plant has some remarkable medicinal properties. According to European studies the plant was shown to have very potent liver-protecting properties. When pigs are given the liver poison carbon tetrachloride an extract of purple loosestrife renormalized liver function as measured by blood and biochemical tests and by histological examination. Studies on rabbits, rats and mice have shown that purple loosestrife extracts also have a very potent hypoglycemic effect. In one study, high blood sugar levels in rabbits given glucose were brought down to normal after administering purple loosestrife extracts of the flowers and stems. The reduction of blood sugar was associated with an increase in circulating insulin. Similar results were achieved with rats and mice.

We are very passionate about the medicinal value of plants. We believe that every plant, no matter how demonized it may be in the public eye, ought to be respected and cherished. We continue to offer the seeds to gardeners outside North America on a matter of principle. The space taken up in our crowded catalogue by purple loosestrife could be better used for a more profitable herb, but we firmly believe that purple loosestrife will prove to be a very important plant in the future.

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