July 20 – 26, 2012 Vol. 14, No. 7


Summertime in the Belgrades

July 20 – 26

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Other Invaders in Maine: There is More Than Milfoil to Stop!

In the past years the focus on protecting our lakes, ponds and streams from invasive aquatic plants has remained consistent. As most people recognize, and articles in this newspaper attest, efforts to control the spread of invasive milfoil and other water-born plants need to also be persistent.

Not to diminish this effort, but . . .

I want to save and focus some of our energy on other invasives, particularly terrestrial invasives. While we seem consumed in our efforts to control aquatic invasives, we need to point out that there is a lot more land cover than water cover, even here in Kennebec County. In fact, in the Belgrade Watershed, both the water and the land, is approximately 96,345 acres. Of that only 16,853 is water-covered (17%). And of that water, less than 5,500 acres will support milfoil growth. Water depths of over 15 feet do not often support milfoil.

In the Cobbossee Watershed, water and land is approximately 127,858 acres. Of that only 14,260 is water-covered (11%), and of that, less than 4,700 acres will support milfoil growth. These are rough estimates but make the point that the land base is far larger than the "milfoil threatened" area.

Point being that there is a great deal more land that is being invaded than water.

What are the culprits? Well, . . . this year seems to have a substantial increase in my yard of Multi Flora Rose, Japanese Knotweed (bamboo) and Japanese Barberry. Speaking to others, I've discovered that their back yards are also feeling the pressure of these invasive plants. Naturally, there is a long list of other invasive plants — check out the Maine Natural Areas Program's website for both a list and pictures. I've mentioned only a few here.

In most cases, trying to control their spread is not much easier than the methods used for aquatic plants. First, you need to recognize that there is a problem. That occasional plant out back which has some interesting foliage and a pretty flower might become a thick bank of vegetation, if you leave it be for the next couple years.

Take a look along abandoned fields and note the occasional clusters of white flowers which indicate Multi Flora Rose. Next year that small patch of white flowers will be joined by additional mounds throughout the field. They are likely to be joined by some Autumn or Russian Olive, or perhaps some invasive Honeysuckle. Before long that abandoned field has become a breeding ground of fruit and seeds which get spread to neighboring properties. As Harry Potter's professor, Mad Eye Moody, would say, "Constant vigilance."

Our natural landscape is part of what Maine is all about. Its future depends on the choices we make. When buying plants or moving them from place to place, consider whether the plants are likely to escape. Plants advertised as fast growing, prolific, and tolerant of many growing conditions are often the ones that become invasive.

Maine just won't be Maine if the plants dominating our landscape are all from away.

  • Ask your local garden supplier to include more native species.
  • Replace invasive plants in your garden with non-invasive alternatives.
  • Do not attack the problem with indiscriminant herbicides. They may have a place in the battle but they are not a magic bullet. Be careful with their use.

Remember, there is a lot to do in order to protect water quality.

Conservation Too columns are written by staff at by the Kennebec County Soil and Water Conservation District in Augusta. For more information about the district and its projects, call Dale Finseth at 622-7847, X 3 or visit www.kcswd.org.

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