Gurney's Inn
May 03, 2006

Rare Species Invades Peconic


Shana Miller of the Peconic Estuary Program addressed the Riverhead Town Board at last week's work session about an invasive species that is growing insidiously in the Peconic River.

According to Miller, water primrose was found in the Peconic River in 2003. Only one other case of water primrose has ever been found in the New York area, in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. "It's a unique problem," she said.

According to AccessWashington.com water primrose, or Ludwigia hexapetala, is a perennial herb that can be found creeping along the shoreline, floating on the water surface, or growing upright. It is a robust plant with bright yellow, showy flowers and willow-like leaves. It is a non-native species originally from South America and the southern United States and has been introduced into Europe and northern North America.

Because of its showy yellow flowers, the plant was often sold in the past as an ornamental species. The plants are very invasive and aggressive and form very dense mats of vegetation.

Because of their destructive properties, they are no longer offered for sale in many states.

Water primrose grows in dense mats along shorelines and out into the water. It favors the margins of lakes, ponds, ditches, and streams. It blooms throughout the summer. The plant reproduces by seeds and by plant fragments.

The PEP has received a $26,000 grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to hand-pull the rooted aquatic plant, said Miller.

Miller approached the board because a permit is needed from the DEC before hand- pulling can begin on the Peconic River in Riverhead — to apply for the permit, Riverhead, as the underwater landowner, must support the initiative.

Time is of the essence, said Miller, who said the water primrose is spreading rapidly and is down to Grangebel Park. "If we wait too long, hand-pulling won't be an option," she said. "We don't want to use pesticides."

Miller said the PEP will use boats and host two removal events for different sites on the Peconic River for the next three years, and that the best months for removal are June and August.

Acting in uncharacteristic haste, Riverhead Town Supervisor Phil Cardinale directed Miller to dictate the letter in his office on her way out; he promised to sign the letter that day.

The board was surprised at the supe's swift decision. "Do you know what just happened here?" asked Councilman George Bartunek.

Councilman Ed Densieski laughed. "Can you do anything about dumpsters?" he asked Miller.

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