by Nikki Toxopeus
The other day, my two woodland guides and I were coming back from a beautiful walk to Long Lake and one of my young guides leapt from the path and ripped out a solitary green stalk of Scotch Broom.
That made my afternoon even happier. It had been good until then, having been shown a garter snake, found a great bouncing log, searched for frogs at the base of the trees, and harvested some lobster mushrooms and arbutus berries. That this kid could recognize the plant, the threat, and be so proactive was great.
The other side of the path was a disturbed, clear-cut forest which would be vulnerable to invasion, and had the plant been allowed to mature it would have added its seeds to a seed bank that lasts for decades.
How many times do you see the Scotch Broom lining our paths, roadsides, and power line corridors, and threatening our Garry Oak meadows? Many do not recognize the plants, and I sure hope no one is selling or planting them. Some of our worst invasives species are garden escapees that were introduced from their homelands and some are still being sold at nurseries.
Globally, invasive species are the second biggest threat to biodiversity loss after habitat destruction, and locally we have both problems. Everyone can act and make a difference, and it will take many hands and many generations.
The high priority invasive species in the CVRD Invasive Plant Species Strategy are Giant Hogweed, Yellow Iris, Daphne/Spurge Laurel, Blessed Milk Thistle, Knotweed Species, Carpet Burweed, Tansy Ragwort, Poison Hemlock and Scotch Broom. Most of these are noxious weeds and some are toxic.
So, what to do?
- Learn to recognize these invasive species. Find out the best control methods. Know when and how to remove them without damaging the native plants or wildlife. This is best done when they are most vulnerable, easy to remove and before they disperse their seeds or propagate. The Coastal Invasive Species Committee is a useful resource
- Become a citizen scientist. Report invasive species locations on tracking apps that are available free from the BC government.
- Find out what local support is available. BC Parks provide help in provincial parks such as Hemer, but not elsewhere. Wouldn’t it be great if local governments or municipalities could provide collection support to volunteer groups that clean up the environment?
- Start removing invasive species close to home, in your own yard or property. Start with the recent, small, outliers and work back to the bigger patches. Keep monitoring and removing survivors and replace them with non-invasive, preferably native plants.
- Join or start a group to stop the invasive spread into new areas, especially sensitive natural areas. Roads and corridors are the usual pathways into new areas. YES organizes broom pulls in May. Broombusters is another active group.
- Properly dispose of the invasive plants you remove. CVRD Recycling depots accept properly bagged invasive species. YES uses WeeChipCowichan who will come and chip up a pile of broom, provided the stems all face the same way, towards the road.
If nothing else, please learn how to identify the invasive species that threaten the health of our native plants and ecology. Once you know them, you will act. The birds, pollinators and wildlife need you to act.
These are the ones I easily recognize so far: Yellow Flag Iris (left), Daphne (top right), Broom (lower right).