Help us save Monarch Butterflies and Maine Native Plants

Bags of Swallow-wort collected at the light house
Bags filled with seed pods are collected at Marginal Way Lighthouse

Do you love walking the Marginal Way?  Would you volunteer to help save Monarch butterflies and Maine native plants?  Then, please join us for the 6th Annual Pod Picking Day on the Marginal Way Saturday August 19th, from 8 to 11 AM to pick the seed pods of invasive Black Swallow-wort.  Volunteers meet at the Lighthouse at the end of Israel Head Road.

Here is how first time volunteer Gail Brothers described her experience last August:

“I didn’t even know what a pod was.  Not only did I feel personal pride in helping to improve the Marginal Way.  Complete strangers would stop to ask what I was doing and thank me for my efforts.  That was worth all the sweat!”

Vegetation along the Marginal Way represents a unique community of native plants that can survive in the tough environment of thin rocky soil, salt and wind.  But they are no match for invasive plants like Oriental bittersweet that overwhelm the landscape and threaten this ecosystem.

Picture of black-swallow-worts on the vine.
Three inch seed pods of Black swallow-wort dangle off vines

Black Swallow-wort, another non-native vine growing along the Marginal Way, has become one of the most serious invasive plants throughout much of the northeastern United States.  Swallow-wort, in the milkweed family, was introduced as an ornamental from Eastern Europe in the 1800’s.  This plant can carpet the landscape, choking out desirable plant species, but it also is a threat to Monarch butterflies.  If the Monarch lays her eggs on a Swallow-wort leaf, instead of a native milkweed, all of the newly hatched larvae of the butterfly die after feeding on toxic Swallow-wort leaves.

The long green seedpods ripen through August, and open in September.  The wind floats the seed parachutes off into new territories.  It is vital to collect as many pods as possible now to contain the spread of Swallow-wort.  Collected pods are sent to the Ogunquit Transfer Station to be incinerated along with household trash.  All homeowners should do the same if you find this vine in your yard.  Pods and rooted material should never go into compost piles.

Swallow-wort is an extremely tenacious invasive species.  Over the last five years, volunteers have collected thousands of pounds of seedpods.  We cannot let up in our efforts to contain the spread of this vine.

The Marginal Way needs your help!  Please join us on August 19th to pull together and make a difference.  Our motto is: “little by little, a little becomes a lot!”  Volunteers at the Lighthouse will direct you where to park.

Experience is not necessary.  Team captains will show you how to recognize the plant.  Bring a hat, work gloves, and hand clippers if you have them.  We provide beverages and snacks.