As southern B.C. labours under an ongoing drought, many kinds of tough, hardy plants are thriving. Fields of invasive weeds are in full bloom in many vacant industrial lots around Cranbrook, and the short window of opportunity for fighting them is just about past.
Frank Hastings, who has been working for a contractor hired by the City of Cranbrook and private businesses to eradicate weeds in targeted areas, recently conducted a tour for the botanically minded, to see land where the weeds have been allowed to thrive and others where they have been cleaned out.
Earlier that day, Hastings and two others spent two hours pulling weeds out along a 100-metre stretch of Mission Road. Eleven giant garbage bags of weeds were the result, which were taken to the dump later. “Eleven garbage bags in two hours by three guys,” Hastings said. “I challenge city crews to beat that!”
Many weed species are in full flower and going to seed: a who’s who of invasive flora, some species which has been growing in the area for decades, some only recently arrived.
And of all these unwelcome aliens, these colonizing visitors, knapweed is the king.
Hastings explains that knapweed can suck water deep out of the ground with its taproot, so it can prosper in drought conditions. Each knapweed plant can produce 40,000 seeds per plant — “So with that number of seeds, it’s success rate doesn’t have to be very high.”
Knapweed also puts a chemical into the ground — catechin — which inhibits the germination of the seeds of other species. Knapweed is almost a super-species — a super-invasive species.
“Because it’s Eurasian in origin,” Hastings said, “It’s not considered food by wildlife or livestock.” He added that some local ranchers have been training their cattle to eat knapweed, introducing it into their diet so they get a taste for it.”
Right now, the best main window for controlling the invasives is past. By and large all the species are in flower, and whether humans like them or not, the bees love them. So herbicides can no longer be used without causing harm to bee populations.
Hastings says that the best combat is still the most labour intensive — pulling the weeds out by hand.
Mowing is another option, especially early on, which prevents the weeds from flowering and going to seed, and also starves the roots. Judicious application of herbicide during the two-month window of June and July is also effective. But pulling remains the best option.
The vacant property between Elizabeth Lake and the highway, where the water slides used to be, is a vast field of knapweed and other invasives including dalmation toadflax, curled dock, common tansy, burdock and mullein (which weed contractors generally leave alone, as its seeds provide food for birds). There are also tall clusters of sweet clover, which is not considered invasive and is generally left alone.
Hastings said because of the proximity of Elizabeth Lake and Jim Smith Creek, spraying is less of an option — no herbicide can be put down with 15 metres of a body of water. The best recourse, he says, is to have teams of weed pullers hit the field and pull up the weeds by hand.
In this regard, Hastings said, a recent idea of the City of Cranbrook to train teams of summer students to pull weeds is a good idea. “What I’d start doing is mowing and bagging the flower stalks, then pulling and bagging stems and roots.”
Driving along Cobham Road to the industrial section of Cranbrook, Hastings points out how clean and weed-free the roadsides are. High traffic industrial areas are City priorities for weed eradication, and businesses like Fiorentino Contracting and Tundra Steel make the effort to clean weeds out of their properties.
But out along Industrial Road G on the way out of town is the field where the stock car race track used to be — another expanse of knapweed — both spotted knapweed (purple flowers) and diffuse knapweed (white flowers), along with species like blueweed, sow thistle and goats beard, proliferate. Hastings shows a plant with short stems and yellow flowers — yellow gum weed. “It’s not listed as invasive yet,” he says, “but it’s been coming in fast.”
The big empty city-owned lot by Save-On Foods is mostly clean, except for the area used to dump snow in winter. A lot of the city’s gravel trucks used for hauling away snow will be carrying weed seeds from the summer, and that area is covered with tall, thick-stemmed weeds, baby’s breath and hedge bind weed. Hastings shows another relative newcomer — yellow tar weed. “It’s native to the Pacific Northwest, but it’s been making its way here.”
The big industrial lots covered with invasive weeds are one thing, but Hastings is interested in more awareness of the issue among residents. “Most people wouldn’t know an invasive weed if it hit them,” he said.
Property owners could contribute by learing to identify different invasive species and how to eradicate them.
Article first published in the Cranbrook "Townsman", July 30, 2015
As many know Art is no longer able to keep up with the Turtle Nesting Habitats that the Rocky Mountain Naturalists created many years ago (to prevent turtle mortality crossing Highway 3/95). As a result of last years flooding the main portion has been completely devastated. Greg has been working to remove the reeds that have washed up onto the nesting areas and making access channels through the reeds. The habitat fence is also in poor shape and needs repair and weeds are slowly encroaching. The Nature Trust summer crew have been a great help in placing more sand and cleaning the site.
The water levels are at the lowest I have ever seen as no stop blocks have been added to the weir this year. Everyone is likely nervous after the flooding last year. Also it was noticed that someone has driven right up the the weir area causing a real mess. Perhaps a barrier could be placed here?
The entrance covers were taken of of the duck boxes the first week of April and looking forward to seeing how many will get used. There was an old one without a cover and when checking it a female Common Goldeneye came flying out.
Looking forward to the Annual Turtle Day event coming up on May 12th again being hosted by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program.
Due to the flooding last year over the turtle nesting area there is a lot of work to be done to remove the reed beds that are up on the nesting area and restore some of the sand.
Linda, Susan, Tara, Virginia, George, Paula, Marianne, Greg
A new Executive was elected at our AGM in January 2015. President - George Rogers, Vice President - Virginia Rasch, Treasurer - Linda Hastings and Secretary - Marianne Nahm.
Other non-elected representatives are Susan Walp - Newsletter,
Outings Coordinator - Paula Rogers,
Elizabeth Lake Coordinator and Presentations Director - Tara Szkorupa
and BC Nature Director - Greg Ross
Memberships for 2016. Your support is much appreciated and the BC Nature Magazine has interesting, informative articles delivered to all members.
Please complete the form below and bring to the meeting or mail to Rocky Mt. Naturalists, Box 791, Cranbrook, V1C 4J5
Family membership $25.00. Individual membership $20.00
email address: __________________________________________________
The annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) – the longest-running Citizen Science survey in the world – will take place from December 14, 2014 to January 5, 2015. Cranbrook, Kimberley Fernie and Elkford naturalists will join tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas to take part in an adventure that has become a family tradition among generations. Families and students, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists go out on an annual mission - often before dawn to count the birds. For over one hundred years, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has driven dedicated people to leave the comfort of a warm house during the Holiday season.
Each of the citizen scientists who annually braves snow, wind, or rain, to take part in the Christmas Bird Count makes an enormous contribution to conservation. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations - and to help guide conservation action.
From feeder-watchers and field observers to count compilers and regional editors, everyone who takes part in the Christmas Bird Count does it for love of birds and the excitement of friendly competition -- and with the knowledge that their efforts are making a difference for science and bird conservation. You are invited to join these local counts.
For more information about CBC participation or helping by watching your feeders in the East Kootenays please contact:
Fernie – Sunday, December 14 – Kevin Knight– 250 430-7960
Elkford – Thursday, December 18 –Ulrike Sliworsky – 250-865-7744
Cranbrook – Sunday, December 21 – Greg Ross – 250 489-2566
Kimberley – Sunday, January 4 – Dianne Cooper – 250-427-1921
The new culvert is now in place and carrying Smith Creek water away from Elizabeth Lake. The photos show it in location. The other photo shows the condition of the old plugged culvert which was removed. It looks as though it was ready for removal anyway due to its condition and the material plugging the inside. The new culvert should be MUCH easier to keep clear of debris.
The first of the three sections of new culvert had been placed and the workers were getting close to placing the second section. At that speed it looks as though the culvert will be all installed by the end of the workday. Sorry about the quality of the photo which had to be taken directly into the sun!
Following Lynn's alert last night (Sept. 17) about a strong smell like diesel coming from ditch below the storm drain outflow at the foot of 11th St. S. and corner of Innes Avenue, Cranbrook Fire Department responded quickly to my call and placed a boom at the storm drain outflow and about 200 metres downstream. This prompt action apparently has prevented any of the liquid entering Elizabeth Lake. This morning I understand that Deputy Chief Driver checked out this site again to ensure that the booms were doing their job.
When I visited the site around 10 AM today, Jim Melenka and Darren (?) from Environment Canada were already taking readings by the outflow, as well as the catchment basin at the foot of 11th. They had still to determine the possible source of the spill and were awaiting information from the City about the storm drain system in that area. Dave Humphrey was able to provide the enforcement officers with a sample taken from the ditch last night. Veron Novosad, the local Provincial Emergency Response Officer, was also in attendance, and had been at the site last night.
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