The invasive giant hogweed.

The invasive giant hogweed.

Invasive giant a dangerous nuisance

Lawrence Woodall warns of the dangers of an invasive plant species.

Attempting to capture the interest of the public and government when it concerns invasive plants is like attending a molasses race in the arctic, and sometimes it even turns into a Clayoquot event with invasive plant-huggers.

To most folks there is no impact to their lives from invasive plants. Therefore, it follows that there is no apparent issue, and thus the plants can make massive inroads devastating  native plant and wildlife populations before there is intervention.

Scotch Broom is one plant I wrote about in the early nineties — it was first noted on the grounds of the loran tower off the Rupert 400, seeds most likely transferred by vehicles from down-Island. Today we can see virtual forests of broom dominating the landscape and in time, as with down-Island scenarios, there will be an impact to forestry as broom will compete with newly planted conifer forests, creating a negative economic impact to our region.

Ironically, it wasn’t that long ago that government highway departments planted broom as a bank stabilizer because its deep roots promoted the distribution of this invasive species. Today broom still is not regulated by the B.C. Weed Control Act and won’t be until there is a serious negative economic impact. Thankfully there are stewardship groups working to eradicate local populations. As seeds lie dormant for years, it will take years to deplete the seed stock to destroy local populations.

Besides Scotch Broom and other invasive plants on the north Island there is a new kid on the block known as giant hogweed, which also crowds out native plant species and has a nasty disposition towards human health. Giant hogweed is a huge, toxic plant that can grow to a height of six meters or more and can burn skin and cause permanent blindness. This year I’ve run into two of the plants, one just south of the Seven Mile Landfill entrance and the other on a deactivated road near Marble River.

Contact with the weed’s clear sap can cause ugly burns that create large blisters leave black and purple scarring for life, resembling scars from a fire or chemical burn. And if even a tiny trace of sap comes into contact with your eye, it can cause temporary or permanent blindness. It’s not just exterior damage — chemicals in the sap known as furocoumarins are both teratogenic and carcinogenic, meaning that they can cause birth defects and cancer, a lethal mix.

Giant hogweed closely resembles our native cow parsnip. Besides its huge size, their stems are five- to 10-cm in diameter and are marked with dark, purplish-red blotches and raised nodules, and covered in coarse hair. They have deeply grooved compound leaves that can grow to 1.5 meters wide.

In both cases that I ran into so far this summer, they were along roadsides, and can be found adjacent to  vacant lots, right of ways, and in areas considered moist to wet, near creeks and streams. Like many invasive species, once they take hold in a region they are difficult to eradicate, as a seed can lie dormant for seven years or more.

If you’re going to tackle a plant (when I returned to the Seven Mile location someone had already nuked it), you’ll want to make sure your entire body — including your eyes is protected. It’s the flower heads and root stalk that carry the seeds and perennial buds to reproduce that need to be eradicated to prevent reproduction. Removal of your safety gear will be just as important, as it will more than likely be covered in sap.

To date, there is no provincial strategy in place to stop its spread, and if it’s allowed to established itself, like in many regions in the Southern Interior of B.C., outdoor adventure will take on a whole new meaning.

Lawrence Woodall is a longtime naturalist who has spent much of his life in the outdoors.

 

Just Posted

Ma Murrays 2021 virtual ceremony screenshot
North Island Gazette wins big at 2021 Ma Murray Newspaper Awards

Zoe Ducklow and Bill McQuarrie both won gold at the online ceremony

Port Hardy council has agreed to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of the discovery of the remains of 215 children being found on the grounds of a former residential school. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Council votes to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of mass grave sites being found

Coun. Treena Smith made the motion for the chamber to not host Canada Day celebrations this year

Port Hardy Fire Rescue responded to an early morning fire around 3:50 a.m. on Sunday, June 13. Two porta-potties were on fire at the Visitor’s Centre on Hastings Street. Anyone with information is asked to contact the RCMP at 250-949-6335. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue photo)
Firefighters respond to early morning fire near visitor centre in Port Hardy

Two porta-potties were on fire at the Visitor’s Centre on Hastings Street

North Island MLA Michele Babchuk. Photo contributed
COMMENTARY: MLA Michele Babchuk talks the future of forestry

‘These forests are important to every single one of us, myself included’

Dr. Prean Armogam hands over a cheque for $10,000 to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society president Rosaline Glynn. The money will be going towards a new roof for the Port Hardy seniors centre. This is the second donation Dr. Armogam has made to the society, giving them $5,000 a little over a year ago. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Doctor donates $10k to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society for new roof

This was the second donation Armogam has given to the society

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

Most Read