The next time you consider sharing pretty wildflowers or their seeds with friends for their gardens, think again.
You could unwittingly be sharing – and spreading - a destructive invasive or noxious plant.
Invasive plants pose a threat to our native environment. They are recognized globally as the second greatest threat to biodiversity after habitat degradation and loss.
To raise awareness, inform the public and prevent and manage the spread of invasive species, the Lillooet Regional Invasive Species Society (LRISS) has been established. The society held its first annual general meeting on June 8 of this year.
LRISS coordinators Jacquie Rasmussen and Odin Scholz say invasive species do more than threaten the environment. They can also impact local economies, society and cultures.
They say their primary focus this year will be on strategic planning, recording and mapping sites, examining treatment options and building an inventory upon existing data and new data on “blank areas” where no information exists. The society will work closely with other regional invasive species societies and the provincial Invasive Species Society of British Columbia.
Their Top 10 list of the worst invasive plants in the Lillooet area includes:
Japanese knotweed, which spreads rapidly and has to be killed by injection with a needle full of chemicals
Orange hawkweed, which Rasmussen describes as a “gorgeous flower” that unsuspecting gardeners like to use as a ground cover
Knapweed, which is well-known locally as an invasive plant
Blueweed, which produces 500 to 2,000 seeds per plant
Knotweed, which is sometimes sold or exchanged as ornamental bamboo
Rasmussen says hogweed has not arrived in the Lillooet area – yet. It can grow to be two metres tall and is so toxic that it burns the skin of people who are exposed to the sun after touching the plant. “It’s not here, but it’s in Squamish, which is not far away,” said Rasmussen.
She said invasive plants are often imported into an area by being bought or sold as garden plants, adding, “We haven’t seen anything, to my knowledge, sold in the local store that would be of concern.”
In addition to learning more about the plants they bring into the area, she also urges local gardeners and residents in general to use “best practices.”
“Don’t give away plants and don’t exchange plants unless you’re absolutely certain what they are,” she advised. “Don’t mix dirt. Be aware of what you may be bringing in on your boots or in the mud on your vehicle. If you brush by plants with burrs, the burrs can stick to your clothing.”
If anyone is uncertain about the identity of a plant and thinks it may be invasive, Rasmussen recommends calling herself or Scholz at 250-256-3727.
Suspect plants can then be properly disposed of by carefully bagging them and taking them to the dump.
The LRISS is funded from a variety of sources, including the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Resources, the provincial Invasive Species Council, the Ministry of Transportation BC Hydro and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.
“The majority of the committees in the province are funded by those players or similar players,” said Rasmussen.