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What’s in a weed?

You may have heard the term before, but there is probably so much more to know about invasive species than previously thought.

Sue Davies of the Invasive Species Council of BC (ISCBC) describes invasive species as having “characteristics that allow them to overtake native species or ecosystems such as the ability to produce huge amounts of offspring and to out compete other species for resources such as light or food”. The aggressive dispersal patterns these species use threaten local biodiversity, and can have massive impacts on “environment, agriculture, fisheries, human health and many other areas”, according to Sue. The impacts invasive species have on our ecosystems are estimated to cost as much as $30 billion per year, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and many biologists and ecologists consider them one of the greatest threats to biodiversity, along with habitat destruction.

Fortunately we have several great organizations in the area working to control and eradicate these dangerous species. Kate Borucz of the ISCBC explains, “the Columbia-Shuswap Invasive Species Society (CSISS) is one of 13 regional organizations which concentrate their efforts on public education and outreach to help spread awareness”, while the ISCBC focuses more on physical eradication. Split into five crews that work throughout BC – Revelstoke, Kamloops, Vernon, 100 Mile House and Williams Lake – the teams use a combination of mechanical treatment (hand pulling or digging up root systems, dead heading flower or seed heads, and brushing) and chemical treatment (herbicide sprays that require a provincially regulated certification to use).

But there may be a way that you can directly help out in the fight against invasives. Dave Hawthorn (ISCBC) says that, “far and away, the best and easiest way to deal with an invasive species is to find something that eats it. If there is no native animal that will eat the invasive plant, the next best thing is to have humans step up to the plate,” so to speak. Invasivorism, as it has been dubbed, can be used as a method of controlling the spread of invasive species, while getting to take advantage of their edible and medicinal qualities.

As one edible invasive website puts it: “at best, humans may be just another form of biological control – capable of reducing the ecological impact of an invader, if not completely extirpating it.”

The North Columbia Environmental Society has a series of workshops called the Hunting & Gathering Guru series, which features an upcoming workshop on September 7 entitled “Eat Your Weeds! Edible Invasive Species”, so you can start learning how to harvest their beneficial qualities without risking further spread. Sue Davies, Dave Hawthorn, Kim Kaiser, and Kate Borucz of ISCBC, along with Laura Gaster of the CSISS, will be leading a walk on the Illecillewaet River Greenbelt and pointing out some of the hidden benefits of Revelstoke’s invasive plant species. They will even be bringing some samples of mullein tea and other edible invasive treats.

Anyone who spends any time in the outdoors should keep in mind these handy reminders from the ISCBC:
· Clean, Drain, Dry: reminding boaters to clean, drain, and dry their boats when moving between bodies of water
· Play, Clean, Go: reminding recreational trail users to clean their boots, bikes, dogs, and anything else when moving between trails
· Plant Wise: reminding gardeners to be aware of planting native plants over aggressive non-natives

Dave’s closing remarks are a little simpler: “KILL THEM AND EAT THEM!”

To register for “Eat Your Weeds! Edible Invasive Species”, email the project coordinator Anna Maria Stone.

For recipes and more extensive resources, check out eattheinvaders.org.

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