My big blue truck rolls down the quiet country road in Nicholas County West Virginia. I have come to check out what might be happening in the marshland of Muddelty Creek. As the dust from the road thins into breeze I can hear the Red-winged Blackbirds. The calls seem to come from everywhere. I look out among the cattails and bullrush in search of one of the singers. The landscape is full of pink dots all throughout the delta.
The pink dots are one of the simple beauties of the marshland. They are the native Swamp Rose. Swamp Rose is native to the Appalachian Mountains. Knowing that roses in general have many traditional uses for food and medicine I’m sure that they were important to Native Americans. In my imagination I can see a birch bark canoe silently glide through the marsh as one of the occupants casts tobacco leaves onto the surface in payment for the rose products collected.
The beautiful and serene setting is one that I could visit on a daily basis if life’s circumstances allowed. And in truth I have wished that there was a public boardwalk that one could take to reach deeper into the landscape.
This little marsh is kinda rare in my mountains. In most places the landscape is not level enough to form this kind of delta. At one point this would have been the home of whooping cranes and herons. The herons are occasionally spotted but I haven’t seen or heard a whopping crane since the early 1970s. However that unique call may once again echoe through the Appalachian Mountains. If we can preserve the wetland areas that they rely on.
Earlier this year I captured a photo that while beautiful represents a danger to the ecology of this marsh.
The Yellow Flag is a warning that native species are in danger of being crowded out.
The color of the invasive Iris is the same color of a warning flag. In fact this European plant is commonly call “Yellow Flags”. As I researched the plant it became painfully obvious that it’s beauty is it’s only desirable quality. In spite of a posts stating that it’s been used as a medical plant the warnings were so numerous and dire that I have no plans to ever even touch the plant. And that’s in fact one of the warnings is that it can cause a severe rash in some people. But the biggest problem is that it completely overwhelms everything else in the swamp. Once established it grows so thick that you can stand on it. It’s thick enough to prevent native species from germinating and thus plants like the native Swamp Rose are choked out. The seeds are prolific and spread for miles because they float downstream. In some cases herbicides are used to control the spread but I’m dubious as to the safety of that action towards the aquatic life. Normally what’s required is physical labor to chop out and remove the whole plant along with the soil it’s growing in. It’s also likely to be a plan that has to be repeated occasionally because they come back from any piece of root left behind. And as they spread they clog the waterways and block migration of fish.
What is needed is a conservation club that can go into these areas and restore the environment under the guidance of a qualified expert. Perhaps the DNR would be needed because of the impact of such drastic measures.
I walked back to my big blue truck as these things weigh on mind. The Yellow Flag was brought here by people who wanted to add something beautiful to their landscapes. I took a second glance at wild Swamp Rose with it’s pink pedals and edible fruit and I can’t help but wonder why it was overlooked by those people.
It’s a much better idea to work with native species in landscapes.
Working with native species in landscapes can be rewarding. Using plants like the Swamp Rose or Cattail not only yields a beautiful landscape but also a food source. Rose hips were made into jams in Victorian times. The flowers are strong scented and in bloom for six weeks while the Iris flowers last three weeks on the average and produce no food.
Turning the key brings the big blue truck to life and I drift slowly back to the main road on my way towards the next photo and the next adventure.
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