Opinion: Invasive Species Council of B.C. is doing an incredible job of identifying and helping to control invasive species.Opinion: Invasive Species Council of B.C. is doing an incredible job of identifying and helping to control invasive species.Read MoreThe Vancouver Sun – RSS Feed

Opinion: Invasive Species Council of B.C. is doing an incredible job of identifying and helping to control invasive species.

Dog covered in houndstongue: Cynoglossum officinale. L. Scott English

Reviews and recommendations are unbiased and products are independently selected. Postmedia may earn an affiliate commission from purchases made through links on this page.

Most of us are aware of the problems caused by invasive weeds and plants in our lawns and gardens, but we all need to realize the extent of the damage being caused to our overall environment. The negative impact to our ecosystems, waterways, wildlife habitats, agriculture and communities is staggering.

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

We are very fortunate to have a group of dedicated people on the Invasive Species Council of B.C. (ISCBC), a registered charity and non-profit society that is making a difference in our lives. This is a dynamic, action-oriented group that is working hard to stop the spread of invasives in the province.

They’re “spearheading behaviour change in communities, organizations, governments and industry to help protect our province from invasive species”.

Since this has become such a serious challenge, the ISCBC has designated May the “Invasive Species Action Month”.

I had the chance to speak with Gail Wallin, executive director of the council, about the gravity of the many invasive species that are now widespread, not only in B.C., but also throughout North America.

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

She pointed out many of the critical impacts these plants cause, and which we may never even have considered.

Flooding, often recurring on an annual basis, is now becoming a huge issue, especially with the intensity of weather patterns caused by our changing climate. When the natural diversity of plants along waterways is being destroyed by invasives, such as the Japanese knotweed (reynoutria japonica), a subtle change is taking place.

Invasives often don’t have root systems necessary to create and maintain stability on water banks the way native plants do.

Greater runoff, resulting in increased water flow and pressure, is causing the banks to give way far more easily, which then creates serious water hazards, which negatively affect not only our communities, but also fish and wildlife habitat, especially those of spawning salmon.

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

We’re also very aware of the wildfires that are destroying vast areas of our forests, causing enormous environmental impact. Wallin pointed out that highly flammable invasive plants like Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius) are becoming a huge part of the problem.

Many of us enjoy going out into the countryside, happily picking blackberries every August, without realizing the damage caused by these incredibly invasive Himalayan blackberries. They spread quickly, smothering anything in their path, and it’s extremely difficult to control this well-armed species.

These few species alone are creating a huge negative impact on our biodiversity and the challenge is determining who is or should be doing anything to control their spread. Much of this invasive growth is on Crown, municipal and First Nations lands, rights-of-way along highways and rail lines, and on farmland. The cost of controlling invasives is enormous and continuing.

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Tamara Slobogean, senior manager of communications for the ISCBC, sent me some information on the economic impacts of invasives. These reports include repercussions from invasive invertebrates as well as plants, but the estimate of economic costs in North America between 1960 and 2017 reached US$1.26 trillion.

These costs are rapidly increasing as the invasives continue to spread and are affecting both forestry and agriculture, as well as fisheries, wildlife habitat, community parks and green spaces.

Wallin is very concerned that all British Columbians be fully aware of the many detrimental consequences invasive species are wreaking on these native habitats, our communities and ultimately our public health.

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

It’s an enormous issue. As with the successful “One Million Certified Pollinator Challenge” a few years ago across the U.S., Mexico and Canada, where individuals made it happen, all of us need to help with this serious challenge.

“No one can do this on their own”, said Wallin.

English Ivy. D. Moorhead

It’s really something we must do collectively, with each of us contributing within our own communities and beyond. She believes we all have a responsibility to participate in combatting this serious challenge, both in our homes and our surrounding green spaces and mountains.

One of the first, and most important, issues is being aware of all our invasive species, watching out for them, and reporting them to our local municipalities, appropriate governmental departments or the ISCBC, so when you’re out for a walk in the country or forest, keep an eye open for these rapidly spreading invasive plants.

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Each municipality has its own policies and bylaws in place regulating how invasives should be controlled on both public and private properties.

In our home gardens we also need to be aware of the growth habits of our existing plants and new varieties we’re going to be purchasing. Even if we only garden in containers we need to be aware of any invasives, because at the end of the season plants tend to be discarded into compost recycling areas and ultimately find their way into natural settings.

You’ll find a list of plants to avoid on the ISCBC website, along with a “Plant Wise” program that offers better alternates that don’t have invasive properties.

Some of the plants to avoid, even if you have them in a contained area, are ones like English Ivy (Hedera helix), which can be spread far-and-wide by birds that eat the pulp from seed pods and spit the seeds out everywhere.

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Periwinkle (Vinca minor), with its lovely purple flowers, roots where it touches the ground and can become quite invasive once it’s well-established.

Common Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila caryophyllaceae) spreads by seed and has become widely entrenched in many areas in the Okanagan, where they also present a fire hazard, especially when they dry up in late summer.

Old-fashioned varieties of Butterfly Bushes (Buddleia davidii) are notorious for spreading by seed and can overtake riparian ecosystems.

Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), which spreads underground with an extensive root system, has been declared a noxious weed. Not only will it invade sensitive areas of grasslands and open forests, but it has allelopathic properties, which means it actually inhibits the growth of other species. The milky sap they contain can also irritate the skin of animals and humans.

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

We also need to be aware that plant breeders have created newer varieties of buddleias that are either completely sterile or have been proven not to spread seed. These varieties are quite safe for your home garden, and it’s important to make the distinction because they’re a significant pollinator plant for bees and butterflies, and they attract hummingbirds as well.

There are more than 100 annual and perennial species of Baby’s Breath, and many of the newer introductions are sterile or don’t produce invasive seeds. They, too, are great pollinator plants.

If you’re uncomfortable planting any of these plants, however, simply avoid them in your garden. There are so many other great choices out there that you’ll have no trouble finding suitable plants.

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

When we go hiking or biking in our native surroundings, we also need to be responsible for not spreading invasives. Our dogs, in particular, can pick up seed pods of plants like burdock weed on their fur and spread them around. When we go boating, we need to make sure to clean the bottom, sides and motor to prevent the spread of invasive water plants like milfoil.

In our area, working together with First Nations partners in tourism, we have created a program called “Protect This Gift”. This collaborative undertaking will engage locals and visitors alike, to encourage everyone to keep all our lands and waterways safe and clean. Watching for and reporting invasive species is part of this program and, as stewards, we can all do better.

Story continues below

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

The Invasive Species Council of B.C. is doing an incredible job of identifying and helping to control invasive species of plants and animals such as certain frogs and fish that are doing so much damage in the province. They need our help in many ways and if you wish to support their efforts and to learn more, go to their website: https://bcinvasives.ca for further information.

The Sun’s Steve Whysall shares favourite stories at BC Home + Garden Show

Planting sunflowers an ideal project for children

More news, fewer ads: Our in-depth journalism is possible thanks to the support of our subscribers. For just $3.50 per week, you can get unlimited, ad-lite access to The Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post and 13 other Canadian news sites. Support us by subscribing today: The Vancouver Sun 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *