Saanich plan takes aim at invasive plants

Saanich council on Monday was expected to discuss a newly created Invasive Species Management Strategy

Garlic mustard sounds delicious. And blessed milk thistle sounds sweet and innocent.

But don’t let their names fool you. They’re both invasive plant species, and they’re wreaking havoc on Saanich’s natural environment.

“I think everybody realizes the importance of trying to make sure the native species can either rebound or stay dominant in the ecosystem,” said Doug Henderson, Saanich’s director of parks and recreation.

Saanich council on Monday was expected to discuss a newly created Invasive Species Management Strategy that aims to target and tackle invasive flora in the municipality.

“It’s a document that looks at making suggestions around starting to identify, inventory and map invasive species, and to look at how we support dealing with invasives on public and private land,” Henderson said.

It also looks at how to restore areas that have been overtaken by invasive species, and how to properly dispose of the plants that are removed.

If approved by council, Henderson anticipates the first step will be a map to give parks crews “a better sense of what they’re out there dealing with and where it is.”

Henderson said one of the municipality’s biggest assets in fighting invasive species is volunteer programs and organizations that maintain parks and public spaces.

“We wouldn’t be able to get out there and have the reach that we have through the volunteer programs as part of the regular staff work. We’re greatly appreciative, as is council, of the work the volunteers do,” he said. “There’s a strong sense of ownership that folks are displaying when they go into a neighbourhood park or municipally designated park and try to reclaim it.”

Among the top invasive plant species in Saanich are giant hogweed, purple loostrife, knotweed and lesser celandine.

There are animals in Saanich that are considered invasive – American bullfrog, eastern grey squirrel, European starlings – but the management plan solely looks at plants.

“The fauna side is a bit more of a broader piece. They tend to move around a lot faster than we can contain within a single municipality,” Henderson said.