Battling the enemy

Invasive weed eradications is everyones responsibility in their gardens, on the hillsides, by water courses and anywhere they take hold

Rob Tregillus sprays Himalayan Balsam in Carson subdivision

When the public unknowingly cultivates a noxious weed, all sorts of havoc ensues, often causing devastating damage to the environment.

CRD crews are in Quesnel right now, scouring the roadsides, hillsides, creek and river beds looking for, among others, two very serious invasive weeds.

Himalayan Balsam (impatiens glandulifera) is particularly destructive to hillsides and water courses because it not only chokes out native vegetation, which have root structures which stabilize the soil but Himalayan Balsam has no root system to replace the beneficial plants they have destroyed.

“We know this plant exists on both sides of the Fraser River in town and to an unknown level outside of town,” CRD Invasive Plant  spray assistant and arborist Rob Tregillus said.

“We also know there are a number of hillsides and many yards with this invasive plant.

“There are acres of Himalayan Balsam in the Quesnel area.”

With small sites, pulling the plants, bagging them and depositing the bags in the invasive plant bins at the Quesnel landfill would go a long way to preventing the spread, but Tregillus said many residents aren’t aware of the damage Himalayan Balsam (also known as Policeman’s Helmet, Sibirian Orchid and other common names) can do. In fact, he said according to a member of the Quesnel gardening society, this plant was at one time cultivated and shared.

Japanese Knotweed (polygonum cuspidatum) is also on the hit list for CRD crews.

Similar in appearance to bamboo, this plant is listed by the World Conservation Union as one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species.

In addition to choking out native species, Japanese Knotweed is known to penetrate thick asphalt and bust up concrete.

“I know of six locations, varying in size, around Quesnel,” Tregillus said.

Both plants propagate through seeds, but knotweed also spreads through a runner (rhizomes) system.

The CRD program is part of a worldwide effort to control invasive weeds. The Invasive Weed Council has a global strategy administered through agencies such as the CRD and local programs are tailored to the specific infestations in various regions.

With only one urban crew and one roadside crew, Tregillus said local residents are an important part of the eradication process.

Before doing anything though, he suggested residents consult with CRD to ensure the plants are the invasive variety and also to help identify spread and location. Himalayan Balsam can be safely and effectively pulled on small sites (ideally before it flowers), bagged and placed in the invasive weed bin at the landfill. For Japanese Knotweed, it’s important to contact CRD as to the best way to deal with the infestation.

However, there’s another way the public can help with this problem.

One of the easiest ways to spread this nasty plant is through dumping unwanted vegetative debris over embankments and around riparian areas.

Not only do grass clippings, branches and the like kill trees but they also create the perfect nursery for these killer invasive plants.

“Anytime you are inappropriately disposing of unwanted grass clippings, tree branches and garden waste, you are potentially giving invasive weeds another deadly shot at a native species,” Tregillus said.

“Also, with the prospect of charging for dumping debris of all sorts at the landfill, residents may choose to dump their debris over embankments and contribute to the problem.”

Tregillus says part of the solution is recruiting residents in the invasive plants war.

“An informed public is the front line force in the war against invasive weeds but that also means if the public isn’t helping with the solution, they’re adding to the problem,” he said.

“Damage to the environment and dealing with these plants is costing hundreds of billions of dollars both locally and internationally through loss of productivity, damage to infrastructures, destruction of native flora and fauna and the cost of dealing with these plants, all of which impacts humans.”

Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed are just two of hundreds of invasive plants listed in the sixth edition of Field Guide to Noxious Weeds and other selected invasive plants in B.C., with more being added all the time, Tregilllus said.

“CRD is currently treating, in one way or another, 31 species of invasive weeds in the Cariboo Chilcotin with Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed at the top of the hit list.”

He couldn’t stress enough how important it is for residents to understand the enormity of the problem and their role in the solution.

For information on these two plants and others that are threatening our environment and your backyard, contact Emily Sonntag, 1-250-392-3351, ext. 266, Natalie Borkowski, 1-250-392-3351, ext. 223 at the CRD Invasive Plant department or Amanda Dreager, Invasive Plant Control assistant who is currently working with Tregillus in the Quesnel area, 1-250-267-7469.

In addition to providing knowledge, they can also arrange for someone to come and assess potential noxious weeds on your property.

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