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‘Harry Potter’-like Weed Growing Amok On Long Island, Destroying Ecosystem

Perennial Pepperweed Rivals Giant Hogweed On The Nuisance Scale
The Asian pepperweed is spreading like wildfire on Long Island, ruining all the pristine ecosystems in its path. (Photo: CBS 2)

The Asian pepperweed is spreading like wildfire on Long Island, ruining all the pristine ecosystems in its path. (Photo: CBS 2)

STONY BROOK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A dangerous plant from Asia is attacking parts of Long Island’s most pristine waterways.

The perennial pepperweed has infested a treasured North Shore beach park, threatening birds and fish.

Bordering a treasured Stony Brook park on Long Island Sound, next to historic West Meadow Beach Creek, an invasive species is running rampant, and could forever change the delicate ecosystem if left unchecked.

“In terms of being frightening, like some of the things in Harry Potter, that’s the type of plant this is,” Brookhaven Town Ranger Eileen Gerle said.

“This is one of the worst species, fasting growing. This is the number one weed we have to eradicate,” Brookhaven Town Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfield said.

The perennial pepperweed can be toxic to waterfowl. Its woody stems sap oxygen and nutrients from the bay. It can strangle shellfish and multiplies in spring, going from muted sticks to flowering fiascoes 5 feet tall, spilling seeds everywhere.

“It’s a big problem and we need a lot of help,” Gerle said.

Gerle said the weed has no natural enemies. She said she is using tarps to limit the spread next to an artesian well. But just like the giant hogweed growing in Muttontown and the Sands Point thorny cat briar, it will take volunteers — not goats — to help eradicate the pesky plant.

“I think we need to get rid of this pepperweed in any way shape or form,” local resident Andrea Flaherty said.

“What it does is ruin the environment that is here,” Barbara Benach added.

“This is a nice piece of paradise here on Long Island,” Raymond Dlutolecki said.

Rangers are offering a training course to identify perennial pepperweed. Community volunteers will then join them for a pepperweed “pull” in March, slated for the weekend of the 9th and 10th at West Meadow Beach.

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