Just as your mom might have told you, beauty is only skin deep.
That’s the case with a trio of invasive plants that have recently been identified as problematic in Maine, according to a couple of plant experts here. Yellow iris, ornamental jewelweed and black swallow-wort may be pretty, but they can smother the state’s native flora and provide less-nutritious food for native fauna, according to Tori Jackson, a University of Maine Cooperative Extension associate professor.
“This beauty comes at a steep price,” she wrote in the May edition of Maine Home Garden News, a monthly newsletter published by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
She’s not kidding. The three plants were singled out by the Maine Natural Areas Program as priority species this year, with the hope that more awareness of them by Mainers will lead to early detection and eradication.
“They’re new enough that a lot of gardeners may not have seen them yet,” Jackson said. “All home gardeners and homeowners and people who care for landscapes are really the first line of defense when it comes to invasive species. Keeping an eye out will be a great public service that home gardeners can do.”
Of the three, perhaps yellow iris is the showiest and most beautiful. It’s the only completely yellow large iris in North America, and was intentionally brought here from its native habitats in Europe, North Africa and Asia as a horticultural plant, according to Nancy Olmstead, invasive plant biologist for the Maine Natural Areas Program. It’s also very invasive, and can spread rapidly, she said. She has spotted it along the coast as far north as Mount Desert Island and in isolated inland locations.