The holidays are upon us, and Christmas trees and wreaths are decorating our homes. Accidentally, invasive plants are sometimes used to decorate wreaths.

Multiflora rose is one of those beautiful invasive plants that is established in Maine and may be used. It has rose hips this time of year that look like bright red berries. One of my teachers hangs a wreath in the same spot near the front door each year. There is now a mysterious plant directly below that hanging spot. Looking at identifying pictures, the class is pretty sure that the mysterious plant is multiflora rose growing by the front door. It seems that this invasive rose used the holiday spirit to find a new place to establish itself.

The theme of our science class this year is invasive species. We have learned how they spread, the advantages they have over native species and how they can take over ecosystems. Multiflora rose spreads through the rose hips or when the tips of the stems fall to the ground. It is not all bad, as these rose hips are also good winter food for birds. But these birds help spread the seeds to new areas as well.

After the holidays, it might be a good idea to dispose of your wreath carefully if you suspect it might be decorated by invasive species. There are other berries to avoid in the future, like Japanese Barberry and Oriental Bittersweet. Winterberry makes a great native alternative. For more information on invasive species or help with identification, visit Vital Signs at http://vitalsigns.org. This is the website where our class has learned a lot about invasive species.

Have a great, invasive-free holiday season!

Elizabeth Lord, Aroostook Team, Massabesic Middle School, East Waterboro 

Press Herald photos blew away holiday blues 

I am prone to melancholy in the days preceding Christmas. I recall the long-ago Christmas Eves made special by my parents for me and my four siblings; the magic of Santa leaving new pajamas, roller skates and umbrellas under the tree while we attended midnight Mass.

The spread of ham, nut rolls, coffee, hot chocolate and cookies prepared by Mom for us to enjoy well into the wee hours of Christmas morning, until we finally fell asleep with our new baby dolls and transistor radios. My dear Mom passed away several years ago, just after the holidays, and my sweet dad, now 90 years old, resides in an assisted-living facility in our hometown. All but my sister are scattered across the country with our own small (in comparison) families. So, as I read the Dec. 22 articles in the Press Herald about the Secret Santa at the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program in Brunswick and the children from Hall Elementary School who visited the assisted-living facility in Portland, my melancholy heart swelled.

Thank you to John Ewing and John Patriquin for the remarkable photos that accompanied these articles. Mr. Patriquin’s photos of the smiling face of Sean Donovan and the tearful Missy Knight upon receiving their gifts from the Secret Santa brought a lump to my throat. Mr. Ewing’s photo of that one rambunctious youngster in line with his dutiful classmates singing carols at the assisted-living facility caused me to laugh out loud. I was especially touched by Ewing’s remarkable photo of Lydia Rumyambo’s beautiful eyes looking directly into Margaret Marino’s soul as she tenderly offered up those cone cupcakes.

These powerful photos inspire and remind us of our own good fortune. Thank you for helping me to see that perhaps it’s not so much melancholy as it is gratitude that washes over me at this special time of year.

Joyce Oreskovich, Brunswick 

Nemitz’s Christmas poem showed lack of balance 

How much do you have to hate a person to write a smear poem about them at Christmastime like Bill Nemitz’s “Hark, the Herald’s avenging angel s(t)ings” (Dec. 23)? I would say, enough to be worried about Bill Nemitz’s mental health.

But your paper enables Bill’s psychosis. Bill not only gets a pass by getting his smear poem on the front of the Local & State section, but he gets to continually write mud-throwing, character-assassinating, sliming, projectile-vomiting articles month after month about Gov. LePage. I think it is time for Bill to see a licensed professional about his obsession with hating Gov. LePage. Hate is not a family value, especially two days before Christmas.

Larry Davis, Hallowell 

Despite vote, Gray still has no gravel pit protection

Thank you to all of the Gray residents who, on Election Day, signed the petition asking for support to stop the development of a new gravel pit on Legrow Road, a rural residential area. This is what happened next.

The petitions were submitted to the Town Council at the Nov. 15 meeting, and they were asked to call a moratorium on new gravel pits so that the zoning that allows gravel pits in the RRA zone could be reviewed. The council’s response was that it wasn’t an urgent matter and that the Planning Board would apply the town’s gravel pit ordinance in the permitting process.

At the Dec. 8 Planning Board meeting, there was discussion about a letter from the developer’s attorney stating that the way the town gravel pit ordinance was written, the town had no right to regulate the proposed new pit and could have no say in the permitting process. Only the Maine DEP had a right to permit and regulate a new class A gravel pit in Gray.

Gray’s town attorney concurred. Gray’s ordinance was too poorly written to allow the Planning Board to have any input whatsoever. The town attorney went on further to say that the Town Council could immediately rewrite the gravel pit ordinance, retroactively even, if it chose to do so.

Sadly, it appears that the Town Council is unmoved to take action. To those Gray residents who live in the RRA zone (68 percent of Gray) you are at risk of finding a gravel pit being developed beside your property. The town has abdicated its right to govern this type of development.

What kind of a town are we to allow this? Please call the Town Council with your concerns.

Steve Griffin, Gray