An article I wrote on invasive plants. I’m obsessed. They’re everywhere!

Invasive plant species have crept up the Sunshine Coast, making themselves at home and leaving local plants in peril.

At the June 20 Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) special planning and development committee meeting, concerned citizens packed the gallery to hear numerous experts discuss with directors and other local government representatives how to handle invasive plant species.

Melissa Noel, co-ordinator for the non-profit Coastal Invasive Plant Committee (CIPC), was a key presenter at the meeting.

Producing a slide show of images of various invasive plant species, Noel explained how detrimental the plants can be to humans and the environment.

Local examples include Scotch broom, gorse, butterfly bush, giant hogweed and Japanese knotweed.

Attendees recognized many of the images, especially Scotch broom, a highly aggressive invasive plant currently dotting the sides of Highway 101 and numerous hillsides. Noel said the species is not only hard to get rid of, but its seeds are viable for up to 70 years.

As Noel showed images of other plants, many people in the audience, including directors, said they had these plants growing in their gardens and backyards, expressing remorse over not knowing they were invasive.

Education, Noel said, is the best tool to assist those in finding out what should and should not be growing in the area. She also emphasized prevention.

“This, coupled with early detection, equals a cost-effective formula in the fight of invasive plant species,” she said.

In addition to education and prevention, the subject of plant removal was discussed. While plants like Scotch broom can be manually removed, other species may require the use of herbicides. Japanese knotweed, a bamboo-like invasive plant, is rapidly spreading on the Coast. It too is highly aggressive and is dangerously making an appearance in riparian areas, Noel said.

Chemical treatment was noted as one of the best methods to control the plant, but this raised red flags for some meeting attendees.

Roberts Creek director Donna Shugar said she was concerned about herbicide use in riparian areas.

According to Noel, chemical treatment of a plant like Japanese knotweed would involve an injection method where the stem of the plant is given a shot of herbicide rather than the whole area being sprayed.

One matter all parties agreed on was the need for collaboration to fight what was referred to as the “war out there.”

“Park staff are trying to spend more time addressing these issues,” said SCRD parks planner Sheane Reid. “They’re doing what they can with the available resources. It is important to know the specifics before moving forward. What we need is good partnering.”

Directors passed a resolution to join the CIPC in partnership, and obtain a free membership with the organization. Directors also voted in favour of extending that invitation to the Town of Gibsons and the District of Sechelt.

Gibsons Mayor Barry Janyk also asked SCRD staff to research examples of other municipality and regional district bylaws surrounding invasive plants in order for directors to be prepared to deal further with the matter during 2012 budget discussions.

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