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L. salicaria, a plant of European origin, has spread and degraded temperate North American wetlands since the early nineteenth century. The plant was introduced both as a contaminant of European ship ballast and as medicinal herb for treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, bleeding, wounds, ulcers and sores.
By the 1830's, L. salicaria was well established along the New England seaboard. The continued expansion of L. salicaria coincided with increased development and use of road systems, commercial distribution of the plant for horticultural purposes, and regional propagation of seed for bee forage. As of 1996, L. salicaria is found in all contiguous states (except Florida) and all Canadian provinces.
Invasion of L. salicaria into a wetland can result in the suppression of the resident plant community and the eventual alteration of the wetland's structure and function. Dense plant establishments in irrigation systems has impeded the flow of water.