A plague of invasive plants, animals and creepy-crawly things is crowding
to stop the destruction, but the exotic invaders keep coming.
LAUREL GOULD KNOWS HER PLANTS. After a lifetime of digging, seeding and weeding, she needs no guidebook to identify what’s growing in the
woods near her Tewksbury home.
But one day in early spring two years
ago, something stumped her. Hiking on a
hillside with Rocky and Casey, her Lab-
mix companions, she glimpsed a plant
about a foot tall, with broad, oval, green
leaves and clear veins. She kept an eye on
it over the following weeks. As it grew,
When it blossomed in June, she gave in
and checked her Peterson Field Guide to
Wildflowers, which identified the mystery
plant as black swallow-wort, a member of
the milkweed family.
Delighted to know the plant’s name,
Gould, a retired librarian, decided to find
out more. She checked several sources
and then, on a hunch, called up the web-
site of the New Jersey Invasive Species
Strike Team, a nonprofit comprising
private individuals and representa-
tives of various community-based
organizations and government enti-
ties. Their mission: to hunt down
harmful emerging species and
prevent their spread.
What she read terrified her. Black
swallow-wort is a fast-growing, invasive
vine that strangles other plants. Worse,
while other members of the milkweed
family provide important habitat for monarch butterflies, eggs left on swallow-wort
are doomed to die.
“It’s a very bad plant,” says Gould.
Soon after discovering its sinister nature, she grabbed a bottle of Roundup
and stormed back up the hill to attack the dozens of specimens she
had spotted. The following spring,
when they sprouted again, she used
a smartphone app that the strike team
had just launched to report the number