Throwing out the bathwater but keeping the baby: Lessons learned from purple loosestrife and reed canarygrass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Historic ignorance of species’ native range, expansion due to unintentional involvement by vectors, and their quiet evolution has caused several invasive species to become ‘‘poster children,’’ such as purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea), and others. Common misconceptions on how these became problematic have involved a variety of causes, including ignorance of species’ ability to intercross and create introgressive hybrids, lack of insects for control, wind pollination, and intercontinental distribution from their native range. Current research focuses on how misappropriating the historical contexts can reverse our misconceptions of native species being noninvasive and how this affects control by land managers. Purple loosestrife and reed canarygrass will be used as example species to demonstrate challenges that native vs. exotic, intra-, and interspecific differences confer to land managers. Issues such as a lack of phenotypic differences challenge land managers’ charge to control invasive individuals yet retain the noninvasives. This is fraught with challenges when native vs. exotic status is invoked or cultural values are entwined. To avoid a monumental impasse, particularly when native and exotic types are phenotypically indistinguishable, this dilemma could be solved via modern techniques using molecular biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)539-548
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2019


  • Evolution
  • Herbaceous ornamentals
  • Invasive species

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