For Invasive Species Week we asked Westfield’s Conservation Area Technician, Jack Elderman, to write this week’s blog. Here is what he had to say:
The beginning of May has always held a special place in my heart. I was walking the back trails the other day following my shift, out to enjoy the natural serenity that I am privileged to call my place of employment. With the mid-spring flowers blooming, the forest had pleasant pops of colour scattered throughout the emerging leaves. As I enjoyed the sights and smells, I noticed that our large patch of periwinkle is blooming amongst the lilac trees. Periwinkle has vibrant purple flowers and waxy dark green leaves, and covers the ground in a thick mat. While these flowers are a pretty purple, they are also problematic. Periwinkle is an invasive plant that chokes out all other ground cover nearby. It can root every time any piece of stem touches the soil, making it particularly difficult to remove. The roots can penetrate quite deep, allowing it to survive in very poor soil conditions. Lastly, its sap is toxic and a health concern to most wildlife, resulting in it having few natural predators.
Periwinkle is a great example of how plants which are beautiful to the eye are not necessarily beneficial to their ecosystem. It seems many people are more than willing to try and combat the thorny European Buckthorn and Black Locust or the sawing blades of Reed Canary Grass. However, the pretty Periwinkle, the fragrant Lilac, and bright Yellow Iris can all be just as damaging to the environments they find themselves in.
Now I know we’re all probably tired of the phrase “stop the spread” but in the case of invasive species it remains the best way of protecting what we have left. When walking on our trails, help us out by staying on the trail and keeping your dog on a leash. They may sound unrelated, but loose dogs or people walking off trail can often pick up seeds and distribute them in places they weren’t already growing. They hitch rides on people without them ever noticing. Another great way is to help remove existing invasive plants. Whether it’s by keeping your property invasive free (as best as you can at least) or by volunteering to remove them on site at Westfield, it’s a direct way to assist nature.
Did you know that the Hamilton Watershed Stewardship Program offers free consultation about invasive species on private property? Check out this link to find out more information about the services and programs available.