Volunteers attack invasive species

That is a discovery made by some 28 people who showed up at White Lake last Saturday to try and deal with a highly invasive plant.

BC Parks employees Peter Hehl and Elaine Gustafson

BC Parks employees Peter Hehl and Elaine Gustafson

The problem is bigger than shovels.

That is a discovery made by some 28 people who showed up at White Lake last Saturday to try and deal with a highly invasive plant.

The volunteers met at 10 a.m. and spent two hours in the cold, wet, miserable marsh to try to at least reduce the spread of the yellow flag iris.

A native of Europe, western Asia and northwest Africa, the yellow flag iris is extremely difficult to remove, says Carmen Massey, White Lake resident and Shuswap Trail Alliance stewardship program co-ordinator and board member.

“We took about 10 bags of yellow flag irises and did enough to realize it is so hard to dig this stuff out, and invasive plants need to be dealt with at the early stages,” she says, noting volunteers snipped seed pods off that had not dispersed their seeds, in an effort to reduce the plant’s vigour.

“All invasive plant material has to be removed and disposed of properly at the landfill, otherwise it will grow back.”

Columbia Shuswap Regional District paid for the  disposal and explained how it handles invasive plant material so volunteers would handle the plants in the right way.

After two hours of working in the cold, wet weather, volunteers gathered around a fire and talked at length  about the issues around invasive species and how to deal with them.

Participants also learned about the origins and problems with the non-native yellow-flag iris.

“There’s no real defined way of dealing with it,” says Massey. “Scientists are trying to figure out how to deal with these plants.”

Massey says the plant’s root system is extensive and about the width of a thumb.

“They get themselves established and create large mats.”

Massey says volunteers came from all over the Shuswap, including Gardom Lake resident Denise Hearn.

“But their ecosystem is a bit different,” says Massey. “White Lake’s marsh area is so big and the potential for spread is massive.”

She says one of the positive outcomes of Saturday’s event was that three BC Parks employees “acted like good neighbours” by being involved and “really appreciated the commitment from the community.

“They definitely want to hear what we’re doing and will be watching for its spread into the park.”

As for White Lake residents and volunteers, Massey says bigger plans and bigger equipment will be needed to deal with the iris.

“For now we’ll try to control the plants’ vigour by clipping the pods and not permitting the seeds to fall into the water,” she says, noting the group will need to find funding to address the issue on a bigger scale.

Massey says the seeds float and look like little pieces of corn from a cob. And anyone who sees them is asked to scoop them out.

If they spot the yellow flag, people are asked to visit www.reportaweedbc.ca to advise the provincial government of the plant’s location.

If you’re not sure what the plant looks like, visit another provincial website at www.coastalinvasiveplants.com/yellow-flag-iris.

Massey says many of those who attended Saturday’s event were there to learn about the plant.

“We need to deal with things strategically,” she says, noting the event was also a Trail Alliance Stewardship training event, which will mean the trail stewards will be better educated when they go out on trails.

Saturday’s event was one result of a recent Wetland Keepers course, where participants acknowledged the iris and the dwindling turtle population as prime concerns.

The White Lake Stewards, BC Parks, Peter Bellin, a turtle   expert and retired university professor, is working with Trish Wallensteen and students to set up a turtle study in partnership with BC Parks.

Shuswap trail users can report issues they find along the paths by sending an email to trailreport@shuswap trails.com. The emails are collected and forwarded to appropriate individuals.

Anyone interested in becoming involved in the White Lake project or other Shuswap Trail Alliance projects, may call Carmen Massey at 250-835-8766.

For more information, visit www.shuswaptrails.com.