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Lake George invader discovered

TICONDEROGA - An invasive terrestrial plant, Mycelis muralis, commonly known as wall lettuce, has been identified growing alongside 9N near Dunham's Bay in Lake George, according to the Lake George Association.

The discovery has prompted concerns the plant may be in other areas along the lake such as Ticonderoga, Hague and Putnam.

Wall lettuce is one of several newer species that was placed on a watch list earlier this spring by the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program.

This is the first time that the plant has been known to exist within the Lake George Watershed, although it has likely been growing for a few years without having been identified. Citizens are asked to contact the LGA if they believe this plant may be growing on their property, so that the organization can assess the spread of its growth.

Wall lettuce is a slender herb with a smooth 3- foot stem that exudes a milky juice when broken. Leaves grow primarily near the base of the plant.

The leaves are 2 to 7 inches long and 1 to 3 inches wide. They are smooth with broad, terminal segments and earlike, clasping flanges at the leaf base. Tiny yellow flowers, with five strap-shaped petals, form rounded shapes at the very top of the plant. The plant dies back after flowering and can act as either an annual or biennial.

Due to a lack of natural predators, diseases and parasites, invasive species like wall lettuce can quickly become pervasive. When they do, these species can negatively impact the ecological balance of Lake George by out-competing native plants for light, nutrients and space. Plants like purple loosestrife and common reed can alter hydrological processes, and can change drainage patterns, soil water holding capacity and resistance to erosion.

LGA Director or Education Emily DeBolt first noticed this new plant when she was working on a native landscaping project near Dunham's Bay last year. She shared pictures of the plant with Dan Spada with the Adirondack Park Agency, but at first they were unable to confirm the plant's identity. Still suspicious, DeBolt photographed a larger plot of the plant recently and sent the photos to Spada again. This time it was determined that the plant was in fact wall lettuce; Steve Young, the head botanist with New York State's Natural Heritage Program, confirmed the identification.

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