Real Community Conversations

Dangerous Giant Hogweed

Before we get going, there’s a couple of terms to go over, just so everyone’s on the same webpage. “Invasive plants,” in horticultural and eco lingo, are plants which are not from here, which spread aggressively at the expense of our native plants.

Plants which are are native to Canada but spread like mad, we term simply “aggressive.”

The other term we need to be familiar with is “noxious weed.” This is a legal term that defines plants which injure humans, are detrimental to farming and, in one case –dog-strangling vine–are harmful to Monarch butterflies.

RULES: Noxious weeds, must by law be controlled by any property owner unlucky enough to have them on-site. Invasives? Removing them is just what we call a good idea.

Invasive and noxious weeds are an enormous problem and citizens are, for the most part, blissfully unaware. Finding resources to control them (noxious and invasive plants, not citizens!) is challenging. Invasive and noxious weeds cause serious damage to our environment and infrastructure. Some of these plants are dangerous to humans.

One of the worst culprits is both invasive AND officially noxious. Giant Hogweed is a huge problem and a HUGE plant, reaching 5.5m high with flowers over a metre across! It can cause burning, lifelong scarring and even blindness! Homeowners have (probably rightly) been forced, at their own expense, to eliminate plants like Hogweed on their properties.

It seems, on the other hand, that there is a lack of responsibility on the part of municipalities, conservation authorities and the province to control these plants. With something as harmful as Hogweed, why are non-residential landowners allowed to leave these plants to grow and endanger us? I think we all need to reach out to our local councillors to push to have these issues dealt with, for the sake of the environment and for the safety of citizens in the community.

The Giant Hogweed isn’t the only plant which is causing problems. Buckthorn is harmful to birds (while birds love the berries, they are a laxative, and so deprive birds of nutrition). It is also the alternate host for oat rust, which can affect farming, and it is very detrimental to the environment. Again, by law it must be removed and yet this isn’t happening. Every year the problem get substantially worse!

Invasive and noxious weeds are a growing problem. There are several nasty offenders. If you want to know more, please visit the Ontario Invasive Plant Council website and check out the Best Management Practice pamphlets listed there.

If you want to know more about horticulture in general, you can follow me on twitter @seanjamesdesigns. I’m always posting nifty and informative stuff about working WITH nature in the garden. 😊

ADVOCACY 
If we push, organizations may scream that they don’t have the money. Since I’m never going to get elected to any office, I can say what folks in (or running for) office can’t. There are some darn good reasons to pay more taxes. THERE! I said it. If we let problems like this get worse, it will only cost more in the future to control them. Public safety is on the line. A simple keep out! sign isn’t good enough. Children playing or hikers wandering on the side of the road could be scarred or blinded.

There are several reasons to pay more taxes and to vote for politicians who’ll boost taxes responsibly. One pet peeve of mine is our garden maintenance. Gardens around town, which improve our quality of life, beautify our world, and therefore increase our tax base, are falling into disrepair. I don’t blame the Town horticultural staff. Their budget is not expanding as it should in a town that’s growing so quickly. In fact, years ago, when the Millennium Garden was created at Chris Hadfield Park, (the park with provincial flags by the OPP detachment), Town horticultural staff were numbered the same as today, though our population has grown almost four-fold. In my opinion, “upper management” has never truly valued green space and green infrastructure, since I’ve been paying real attention (only about 35 years), and the time has come to change this!