Baby's breath (Gysophilia paniculata)
Why is it a problem?
Like other invasive plants in the Top 12 for the region, baby’s breath out-competes native plants and takes over their habitat, while providing no food or habitat for native wildlife. Baby’s breath is of special concern because it has entered the fragile dune ecosystem at Sleeping Bear Dunes and is threatening native plants like wormwood, broomrape, and the threatened Pitcher’s thistle. Baby’s breath can carpet an area and be a great disappointment to visitors coming to the dunes expecting to see plants typical of the rare dune ecosystem. It is also considered to have an unpleasant odor by many. Once the plant is established, baby’s breath can spread quickly by its many windblown seeds, since there can be up to 13,000 seeds per plant.
What does baby’s breath look like?
Baby’s breath starts out with multiple small stems covered in lance shaped leaves which branch up and out. This grows into a small shrub that can get up to 4 feet high. Many tiny, fragrant white flowers bloom in July and August. Baby’s breath in bloom is very easy to spot from a distance.
How do I manage baby’s breath?
Prevent invasions by restoring degraded areas like old fields or roadsides back to a diversity of native plants, which will prevent baby’s breath from forming a monoculture. Be careful if using wildflower mixes, since many still contain baby’s breath. Control of baby’s breath is most successful early in the spring when the plant’s leaves and tap root are small. Baby’s breath can be dug up as long as the caudex (area where the stem joins the root, approximately 8 inches below the surface) is severed. Baby’s breath can be successfully managed with the application of glyphosate (Roundup) throughout growing season.
Pleasant Peninsula Design, Habitat Matters 2017