Now that the alum treatment is done…..

Dear Friends of Lake Attitash:

Now that the alum treatment is done, we must continue to think of ways we can do more to protect our beautiful lake.

Having a “natural” shoreline with native plants and stones is probably the best thing you can do. The Conservation Commissions strongly discourage walls, preferring more natural slopes filled with stone and native plants. There are good reasons for this.

Shoreline plants function to filter storm water runoff, capture pollutants before they reach the lake, and provide wildlife habitat for turtles and birds and prevent soil erosion.   

Storm water run-off is the single largest contributor to water quality degradation in Massachusetts.  It contains fertilizer, pet poop, pesticides, sand, soil, salt, oil and antifreeze.    

Shoreline plants…even just a few ….will help keep Lake Attitash clean.

Our lake management company, Solitude Lake Management, wrote the following in a recent newsletter:   

“Maintaining dense beneficial vegetation around your lake or pond is extremely important for improving water quality, preventing erosion and controlling nuisance geese. Establishing buffer zones takes minimal effort and requires little maintenance. In the long run, it will also reduce the likelihood of excessive lake algae and other water quality issues that come from nutrient loading, thereby reducing the need for constant herbicide treatments, and lowering your long-term costs associated with managing your waterbody.

You will also benefit from proper buffer management by attracting insects, like dragonflies, that feed on mosquito larvae, thus helping to control mosquito populations in and around your lake. In addition, flowering native plants and beautiful sedge grasses can be a very pleasing sight that will undoubtedly increase the value of your property.”

So… let’s do something good for the lake!

When thinking about adding native plants along our shore line we all want to protect our access to the lake, our view and we want plants that are easy to maintain.  Here are seven low-growing native perennial plants that have been recommended by Solitude Lake Management Company for planting either in shallow water or on the water’s edge.

7 Recommended Vegetation Species to Plant along your waterfront

Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata)

Pickerelweed is a swallow freshwater aquatic plant that grows three to four feet tall, but typically you only see one to two feet since about half of the plant is underground. This low growing perennial plant is ideal when low borders or water views are the goal. It has creeping underwater rhizomes with heart-shaped leaves and violet-blue spikes extending about the water. Its beautiful flowers attract bees and butterflies, as well as dragonflies, which consume mosquito larvae. Pickerelweed blooms from June through November and provides good cover for birds, fish and amphibians.

Blueflag Iris (Iris versicolor)

This clumping plant has several violet-blue flowers with yellow-based sepals that emerge on sturdy stalks among tall sword-like leaves. Their height is anywhere from 2 to 3 feet and they flower from May to August. They grow in swamps, marshes, and on wet shores and are often found in standing water. They have limited wildlife value, so they are resistant to being eaten by waterfowl and other animals.

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Another plant that not only looks pretty, but attracts butterflies and even hummingbirds with its nectar supply is the cardinal flower. This plant has many brilliant red, tubular flowers in an elongated cluster on an erect stalk. It grows from 2 to 5 feet in damp sites, especially along streams, and flowers from July to October. It grows in damp sites, especially along streams.

Native sedges and rushes

There are many grass-like aquatic sedges and rushes such as bulrush and soft rush. Sedges have triangular stems and grow in shallow water, while rushes have cylindrical stems and grow in clumps. These plants can be expected to spread, but are not aggressive. Their shallow spreading surface roots hold shoreline soil and reduce erosion. You will find that they only need controlling once per year or less. You will also probably find that these plants will reduce problems with more aggressive and invasive aquatic plants. Rushes and sedges are great habitat for wading birds and your shoreline will look more natural and attractive, too. 

Arrowhead or Duck Potato (Sagittaria latifolia)

Duck Potato, or arrowhead, is a perennial that grows 1 to 4 feet tall and has large broad leaves shaped like arrows with small white flowers. It grows in wet sites or shallow water along lake and stream margins, marshes and swamps. The plant has strong roots and can survive through wide variations of the water level and displays an affinity for high levels of phosphates and hard waters. The underground tuber (duck potato) is preferred by at least 15 species of ducks, including canvasbacks, but many times the tubers are buried too deep for them to reach.

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

This plant has slender leaves and deep pink flowers clustered at the top of a tall, branching stem. It grows to be 2 to 6 feet high with flowers from June to August. Milkweed grows in swamps, thickets and along wet shorelines and the flowers attract and provide food for butterflies, especially monarchs.

Rhododendron Groenlandicum

It is a low shrub growing to 20 in tall with evergreen leaves. The leaves are wrinkled on top, densely hairy white to red-brown underneath, and have a leathery texture, curling at the edges. The tiny white flowers grow in part shade, sun; wetlands, lake and stream shores. The flower clusters are very fragrant and sticky.

You can buy these plants from most large garden centers. Lake Street Garden Center in Salem carries all but the sedge grasses. There are many more beneficial native plants besides the ones recommended here. Just beware of certain undesirable or invasive plants such as cattails, phragmites, purple loosestrife, alligatorweed and smartweed as many of these have an explosive ability to spread and require extensive effort to manage.

Conservation Commission information:

For Merrimac Residents: The Merrimac Conservation Commission has no issue with residents planting native plants around the lake shore or in shallow water provided they are indeed native plants and no mulch or other material is placed around the plants.

For Amesbury residents: The Amesbury Conservation Commission offers a list of suggested plants on their website.  For details please visit

In addition, based on state and local wetlands laws, any proposed projects that involve regulated activities within 100 feet of Lake Attitash are subject to the wetlands permitting process.  Examples of regulated activities include work that would alter grading or work on the lakeshore bank including stabilization.  Section 3.0 of the Amesbury Wetlands Regulations provides a detailed inventory of what constitutes a regulated activity.  The permitting process is intended to ensure that any activities within proximity to the lake do not result in an adverse impact on the lake.   Please refer to the regulations if you are in doubt.  The regulations are available on the Amesbury Conservation Commission website at

This project has been partially funded with Federal Funds from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection under an s. 319 competitive grant.