Archive for the ‘Invasive’ Category

Meadowsweet – Spirea alba var. latifolia

White Meadowsweet
White Meadowsweet

Through grass, through amber’d cornfields, our slow Stream–
Fringed with its flags and reeds and rushes tall,
And Meadowsweet, the chosen of them all
By wandering children….

 

By William Allingham (1824-1889)

 

This perennial shrub of the Rose family is native to Northeastern North America and can be found growing in wet areas such as edges of marshes, bogs and ditches, along streams, and wet prairies. In Kentucky, and Tennessee it is considered Endangered. While in Ohio it is listed as Extripated (locally extinct).  The plant was imported into parts of Europe; Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, United Kingdom. In Belgium and Latvia it is listed as Invasive, and in Lithuania as potentially Invasive!

 

In herbal medicine of the Ojibwa Indians a tea of leaves and flowers was used to ease childbirth. Early settlers used the inner bark as a pain killer, much like other early aspirin like herbs (willow. etc). Unlike willow or poplar, which also contains Salicylates, the properties and strength of the aspirin like effects is consistent from plant to plant. In minute amounts Meadowsweet can also be used on stomach issues. The Blackfoot Indians used a tea as an enema and a vagina douche to treat infections.

 

The leaves smell like almonds and have been used to keep linens fresh and nicely scented. The leaves have also been use in making an astringent skin tonic. The leaves have been dried and used as a China tea substitute, supposedly tasting much the same as the original. The early settlers ate the roots.

 

In magic use this plant and its flowers are used to promote love, balance and harmony. Among the Druids the Meadowsweet, Vervain and Verbena were their three most sacred herbs. The use of fresh flowers on the alter has been frequent when casting a love spell, also use the dried petals in love mixtures. The fresh flowers were often included in wedding bouquets. In Welsh Mythology, Gwydion and Math created a woman out of oak blossom, broom, and meadowsweet and named her Blodeuwedd (“flower face”).

Leatherleaf Mahonia – Mahonia bealei

Leatherleaf Mahonia leaflets and fruit
Leatherleaf Mahonia leaflets and fruit

This evergreen is a native of China and brought to the United States in 1848 as an ornamental. In 1848, after the Opium Wars in China had ended which opened up trade, Robert Fortune first found this plant. An interesting story surrounding his first encounter goes like this: Fortune saw the leaves of this plant peeking above the walls of an enclosed courtyard of someone’s home. He didn’t know the people, but apparently that didn’t matter to him. He opened their front door and walked through the house to the courtyard where he considered digging up the shrub, but felt it was too large to survive. In the next town he offered a reward to anyone who would bring him smaller specimens he could carry with him. In short order he received three separate shrubs.

 

This interesting plant is recommended in the southeastern United States as a wildlife attractant, but it is that wildlife that it attracts that has contributed so heavily to its becoming an almost invasive plant there! The fruits are abundant and are greatly relished by the birds, which eat it and spread the seed in their excrement. So this once garden plant is now naturalized throughout the south. The Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council has it listed as a Rank 2 NIS plant (significant threat). This means that it poses a threat of becoming invasive, but as of yet is not spreading easily into native plant communities.

 

The leaves on this plant are very attention-grabbing. They resemble holly leaves in basic shape and in having points on the leaflets, but they are opposite unlike holly leaves that are alternating. The other major difference is that these are not opposite leaves, but leaflets…which make them all together one very large leaf! The flowers are an interesting yellow, growing abundantly in large clusters and appearing in late winter. Walk past on a crisp winter, very early spring day and get a whiff of citrus in the air…those are the Mahonia flowers!

 

The fruit which follows start out green but swiftly turn bluish black with a grayish bloom. If you can beat the wildlife to them (birds will strip the plant bare in a few short days) then they are actually edible. There are many seeds wrapped up in very little flesh, but the taste has a very refreshing, slightly acidic taste. They have been recommended added to cereal. They ripen in April and May and provide Vitamin C.

 

Since this plant is in the Barberry family of plants it has Berberine in the rhizomes which make it a bitter tonic with antibacterial effects. A decoction of the root and stems has been used to treat pulmonary tuberculosis, recurring fever, and cough in rundown body systems, rheumatoid arthritis, backache, weak knees, dysentery, and enteritis.

Japanese Honeysuckle – Lonicera japonica

Japanese Honeysuckle
Japanese Honeysuckle

….The Fairies taste.

Fly, dance and breathlessly exclaim…. 

Honeysuckle, forever mine.

by Robin Qualls 

This invasive vine from East Asia is banned or prohibited in several states. In the Orient where it is native, the plant has been used for thousands of years for medical treatments. An ointment is used to remove freckles; this was made from the leaves. And the flowers gathered and made into a bouquet to treat asthma.

In modern herbal use it is considered alterative, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, diuretic, and febrifuge in action. The stems are used for acute rheumatoid arthritis, mumps, and hepatitis. An infusion of the stems and flowers combined is used for upper respiratory tract infections, and dysentery. The unopened buds are made into an infusion to treat tumors, dysentery, colds, and enteritis.

The leaves are highly nutritious and can be boiled much like spinach. The buds and flowers are edible and can be made into syrup or used to flavor wine, sorbet, and other sweet dishes…such as pudding. Tea can be made of the leaves, buds, and flowers.

This plant remains palatable throughout the winter months and is an important browse food to the white tailed deer. In the summer months the flowers attract hummingbirds and scores of bees. The fruit is eaten with great lust by many different songbirds.

The vines of Honeysuckle (including the Japanese variety) have been used in basketry. The vines can be pounded to release the saponins and then thrown into the water of fishing grounds. The saponins act as fish poison to stupefy or kill the fish for easier harvesting.

American Marsh Pennywort – Hydrocotyle ranunculoides

American Marsh Pennywort
American Marsh Pennywort

Pennywort.

Pennywort.

Pattern of primrose and pennywort.

Taking me, taking me,

Take me to meadows of childhood…

By Dic Edwards

This creeping, perennial aquatic herb is native to eastern North America where is grows in moist areas such as marshes, springs, and swamps. Here in the east there are places that it is becoming Endangered…Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. But in Europe it is considered an invasive species because of its tendency to develop large colonies!

Here in Delaware in can be found along the edges of ponds, creeks, and swampy areas. It often keeps its deep green color in winter. The small white flowers form in small clusters or umbrells from the leaf base. The flowers are on short stalks in the umbrell, and have 5 tiny, white petals.

The genus name, Hyddrocotyle, comes from the Greek and means water (hydro) cup (or small drinking vessel – cotyle). It is believed to have similar healing properties to its Asian cousin the Hydocotyle asiatica, which has been used to treat leprosy, itch, scrofula, rheumatism, ulcers, and secondary syphilis.

This member of the Carrot family was used by the Cohuilla Indians for greens.

Asiatic Dayflower – Commelina communis

Asiatic Dayflower
Asiatic Dayflower

This introduced wetland native of east Asia (southern China, Japan, and India) loves moisture, although it does not need to be wet at all times, like standing water and is often invasive in this country.  In northeastern China the Asiatic Dayflower has caused considerable financial lose due to damage that has occurred in orchards. This plant was introduced from Asia as an ornamental, but has now escaped cultivation, and is slowly becoming a problem.

 

The Daylily has a long history of use in China in herbal medicine. The leaves are depurative (purifying), diuretic, and febrifuge. An infusion of the leaves has been used for sore throat and tonsillitis, use it like a gargle. A decoction treats bleeding, diarrhea and fever.

 

The leaves, flowers and shoots can be eaten raw or cooked. Chopped it can be added to salads, or steamed like spinach. The whole plant can be rinsed and used in stir fries, sautéed into egg dishes. In China the entire plant is harvested, dried, and used later for tea. 3 teaspoons added to a cup of water makes a nice cup of tea. The flowers are bland in taste, but slightly sweet.

 

In Japan a dye industry revolves around the 2 blue petals. It makes a nice blue dye that was used for coloring woodblock pics in the 18th and 19th centuries. The only drawback is that if exposed to light the dye color fades to a greenish yellow within a short period (maybe 2 months).

Bittercress – Cardamine hirsuta

Hairy Bittercress
Hairy Bittercress

This native of Europe and Asia is an annual who loves open areas, cultivated spaces, in fact almost anywhere is fine. It is very capable of being weedy and invasive, but since it adds to the spring time bouquet of greens after a long winter it should probably be forgiven this tendency, It stays green throughout the cold winter, making it a good plant to add to the diet in January and February.

One of the many complaints about this taprooted plant is that it attracts aphids, now this might be good in the garden as a trap plant! If you do want to rid your garden of this plant then remove it before it seeds, it is easily removed with light hoeing.

Cardamine hirsute is the “stiff plant” used in the ‘Nine Herbs charm,’ it was supposed to fight against the serpent. The ‘Nine Herbs Charm’ was recorded in the 10th century, and was an Old English incantation intended to be uttered over 9 herbs before their used in treating poisonings and infections.

 

To read my former post….check here

Musk Thistle – Carduus nutans

Musk Thistle
Musk Thistle

…In Scotland grows a warlike flower,
Too rough to bloom in lady’s bower;
His crest. when high the soldier bears,
And spurs his courser on the spears.
O there it blossoms – there it blows
The thistle’s grown aboon the rose…

 

By Allan Cunningham (1784-1842)

 To read the rest of the poem click here

This native to Europe and Asia is now found in the United States everywhere except for Maine, Vermont, Florida, Alaska, and Hawaii. It was first found in 1942 in Tennessee. It has spread so rapidly that 25 states have declared it Noxious! Although it will destroy rangeland, making impossible for cattle to graze, they rarely eat the foliage. They have been observed eating the flowers and seedheads.

 

Nodding Thistle produces high quality nectar that allows bees to produce superior honey. In the past the dried flowers have been used like rennet to curdle milk. Also, the pith of the stem is edible; care must be exercised when peeling it to avoid the thorns!

 

In folk medicine the flowers were used to reduce fever, and purify the blood. The leaves and seeds have been used as a bitter to stimulate the liver.

 

In magic use thistles have always been an herb of protection and vitality. A bowlful, placed in a room or on an alter will strengthen the spirit, renew vitality and afford protection for all present.