Beware of Invasive Plants

Although I’ve been a lifelong gardener, my interest and knowledge of plants has taken a new twist since becoming an eco dyer and printer. It turns out that many of the plants that I use in this practice are not native to the area I live in, but are from other countries far and wide, brought here mostly by means of trade, sometimes attaching themselves to ship ballasts or even as accidental migrants on the soles of our shoes.  Often the seeds or berries are ingested by birds who travel long distances before excreting those seeds in other countries. The wind then spreads them even further.

While I love having access to some of these plants, I’ve become more aware of the hazards of misusing these plants, even now, after they’ve been here for years, even centuries and and have become invasive species, sometimes threatening to eradicate our own native plant life.

Garlic mustard is only one example of a plant that threatens to do serious damage to our land as we know it.

I found this garlic mustard with little white flowers,  Alliaria petiolata, in my own backyard growing just in front of some tulips.

“Threats:  Garlic mustard is currently displacing native understory species in the forests of northeastern America and southern Canada.  Native wildflowers include spring beauty, wild ginger, bloodrot, Dutchman’s breeches, hepatica, toothwortsm, and trilliums.  It displaces native herbaceous species within 10 years of establishment.  Garlic mustard can invade undisturbed areas as well as disturbed areas.

Garlic mustard is also a threat to species that depend on the native understory species.  For example, the endangered Virginia white butterfly (Pieris virginiensis) uses toothworts as a food supply during the caterpillar stage.  Garlic mustard displaces toothworts, and is toxic to the eggs of the butterfly.  Similarly, the native American butterfly (Pieris napi aleracea) which commonly use native mustards as their host plants, tries to use garlic mustard, but their larvae die.”

I’ve always been an organic grower, but since becoming aware of the nature and extent of the invasion of “alien” species, I’ve begun to change my own bad habits that only serve to foster this danger to more protective ones that foster more environmental responsibility.  Change begins at home.

Possibly the most important thing I can do is to isolate these weeds as I pull them up (by the root of course!) .  I don’t just throw them in my compost pile now!  I first place them in a heavy black plastic bag, close the bag tightly and leave it in the sun to burn up within the bag. As these pile up, I will burn them before placing the ashes in with the compost.

I’d say that on this property, the biggest danger is posed by Oriental bittersweet
(Celastrus orbiculatus).  If you dig up the root, it’s very red.

Invasive Bittersweet
For more info and pictures on bittersweet go here, to the Forest Resource Center.

This week I’ve begun a project to landscape my front yard with native plants. This could take a few years. So far, so good!

A Way To Go
See my FB post for more details.

I’m sure you can guess that you’ll see more about this in coming posts!

New Addition to the Liminal States & Thresholds for Change Series

This whole series is the product of a summer of Eco-Dying and Printing and includes some shibori, some rusting and some indigo dyes. The final details on this one are actually painted on with acrylic paints to expand the photos of the trees from the squares into the spaces above and below.

In the Stillness. web.
In The Stillness. #5 in the series: Liminal States & Thresholds for Change
In the Stillness .web.
Detail, In the Stillness

These trees are from photos I took in my back yard:

Then it was ‘shopped some more, cropped and divided into four sections and printed on fabric as seen in this piece. Sometimes artists have a hard time differentiating between what they know in their heads to how it’s perceived when others look at it.  Fortunately, I belong to a small critique group, now a local Pod of the regional SAQA, North Of Boston, which we call the NOB. From my experience with them I found that one didn’t necessarily “see” what I saw, in what was then just four photos, not necessarily related as one picture;  hence came the painting in of branches to unite the four sections and bring it to a finish!

I think Nina Marie has some exciting plans in the works for the summer:

Off The Wall Friday

Protect What You Are Thankful For

One of my favorite plants in the new dye garden is the Foamflower, Tiarella cordifolia-Family: Saxifrage (Saxifragaceae).  I’ll be adding more varieties in the spring because I really appreciate how well it prints.


Above there are 3 distinct prints of these leaves, one in the center and two on the bottom left.  As you can see, they print well when no other plant does!
Tiarella cordifolia are the top three and bottom left beside the peony leaves to the right. They’re also a reliable printer.

And those lovely Wild Cranesbills! I’m trying to propogate the wild ones that I find into my garden. We’ll see if any of them took well enough to make it through the winter. I pick them from a few places in my own yard and from a couple of sites especially, around Lake Quannapowett.

If you weren’t looking for these wild geraniums, you’d hardly notice them where they grow sparcely. So when I come across them I feel especially lucky!  They always release their pigments!

Then all of the varieties of Acers! Pretty sure this one’s a Red Maple.  On the left The fabric was dyed with Walnut and on the right with Oak Gall. On cotton, alum, soy, alum and dipped in ferrous sulfate.

This was not the best year for me printing with maples.  They frequently didn’t print at all, perhaps due to the drought here.  But all of a sudden, I found that some from my own yard were printing pretty well, so here’s the proof – you never know!

Need I say, I’m very thankful for all the leaves that bestow their pigments on my cloth!

Linking up with Nina’s Off The Wall Friday!  Happy holidays to all! Those things that we are grateful for have become all the more precious for many of us now! Let’s protect them and celebrate them.

“Walk Into a Forest, Breathe Deeply…”

From an article by Nancy Rose, Editor of Arnoldia