Published in the Weekly Packet’s ‘Another View’ on July 14th, 2022
Driving along the head of the Bagaduce River during the alewife migration, one can easily spot dozens of Bald Eagles feasting on this keystone species as they make their way up to reproduce in the freshwater ponds that dot the watershed. According to Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, ‘alewives tie the ocean, rivers and lakes together and are recognized as an important ecological ingredient for restoring healthy fisheries and watersheds” Spearheaded by fishery activist, Bailey Bowden, the successful restoration of the alewife fish ladder into Pierce Pond has revived local alewife populations which in turn has increased available food for wildlife while bolstering our local fisheries by providing desirable bait fish for lobstermen.
Keystone species are organisms that help hold an ecosystem together, and without them our wildlife communities would look quite different. In contrast, invasive species disrupt functioning ecosystems, harming the local environment. Invasive species are often introduced to a site with fill dirt that is brought in during construction. Unfortunately, the highly invasive ‘Bishop’s weed’ seems to have exploded from some of the fill that was used in restructuring the road behind the public boat launch into Pierce’s Pond, and it has started to spill into the pocket-sized meadow along the fish ladder.
Last summer, members of the Halcyon Grange joined the Blue Hill Garden Club to start the long and arduous process of suppressing this invasive species. Because the site sits along the stream, chemicals are not allowed, and it will take time and diligence to oust this aggressive species. If even a tiny bit of the root material is left behind, it will take hold and return with gusto. Over the several years since the completion of the ladder, local community members have done an extraordinary job in stepping up to account for the increased numbers of fish making their way up to the pond. Now locals and visitors alike are invited to participate in tending the shoreline in order to eradicate the weed before it takes over the entire site.
On Saturday, August 13th the Open Air Arts Initiative will host a free workshop where participants will creative a collaborative ‘habitat sculpture’ atop the patch of weed while learning how to quell invasive species without the use of chemicals. A collaboration between the Cynthia Winings Gallery, the Blue Hill Heritage Trust and the SEED Barn, OAAI inspires people to creatively connect to the natural world around us. Deep connections with the landscape are fostered through tending it. During the process of creating a sculpture using materials found on site opens the space to express ourselves in ways that considers our relationship with the natural world around us.
Because the process of ousting this invasive species will take so much time, the organizations are approaching the shoreline restoration with the idea of long-term collaborative tending of this common access space. Instead of simply accomplishing this task with a singular event, folks from here and ‘away’ are invited to participate as they pass through and enjoy the site. ‘Many hands make light work’ and instructions on how to expel the Bishop’s weed as well as how to tend to the long term needs along the lakeshore area are posted online as well as at the site itself. Look for information on the kiosk located in the outdoor classroom and at www.virtualvoices.org
When you see the emergence of the Bishop’s weed, please feel free to help eradicate it by either digging it out and placing all of the plant material in a garbage bag before disposing of it at the dump, or suppressing it with several layers of cardboard which may be camouflaged with sticks an leaves found on site.
What IS Bishop’s weed?
Aegopodium podagraria or Bishop Weed is the wild form of the nursery plant, ‘Snow on the Mountain’ and is very, very aggressive. Snow on the Mountain has variegated leaves and was promoted by the nursery industry as a shady ground cover. After going to seed, it reverts to its non-descript native form of solid green leaves. It is native to south central Europe and was used as a food plant by the Romans, and as a medicinal herb by monks, who carried it into northern Europe. It can still be found growing in patches around monastic ruins throughout the continent and descriptions of its use are found in monastic writings such as Physica by Hildegard von Bingen.