No, I have not gone crazy, I don’t want to build a wall or cause panic, but we are being invaded here in beautiful Muskoka, by a series of invasive and noxious plants. If we ignore them, they will do permanent damage to our beautiful home, but the good news is we can all help eradicate them before they get a permanent foothold here.
Starting this month, the district of Muskoka will start a program of treating the roadside verges with herbicides wherever they find any of these plants. You can help by contacting them and letting them know if you see plants of this type growing. So, what are the plants, how do I recognize them and who do I contact?
Giant Hog Weed. This one may be the easiest to recognize as you drive around Muskoka and certainly poses the most “danger to humans” as its sap can cause burns to the skin.
Giant Hogweed has two major negative impacts. Firstly, due to its invasive nature, it poses a threat to native biodiversity. Secondly, Giant Hogweed is a public health hazard. It produces a noxious sap that sensitizes the skin to ultraviolet light. This is known as photosensitivity, which can result in severe and painful burning and blistering. It is important to avoid any skin contact with this plant.
- The plant can grow from 2.5 to 4 metres high (8 – 14 feet).
- The saw-toothed leaves are deeply lobed and can grow to 1 metre (3 feet) across.
- The stems are hollow with dark reddish-purple splotches and coarse white hair.
- The watery sap produced by the leaves and stems contains a chemical that causes skin to become highly sensitive to the sun.
- Small white flowers are clustered in an umbrella-shaped head that can grow larger than 30 centimeters (1 foot) in diameter.
- The seeds are oval and flat.
- It can be found along: roadsides, vacant lots and stream banks.
Getting rid of this plant if you have located it on your own property is not recommended. The District of Muskoka suggests calling in a professional weed control company to handle both the removal and disposal of this noxious plant. Remember if you do attempt this by yourself you cannot put it out for garbage collection. The plant waste must be disposed of properly. Read the specific instructions on the District of Muskoka website.
Japanese Knot Weed. While it is not as simple to identify as Giant Hog Weed this plant also has distinctive characteristics.
The stalks grow straight up and can reach as high as 3 metres. The stems appear to be round and reddish-purple in colour. Large, heart-shaped leaves form in a zigzag pattern along the hollow stem. Flowers are cream-coloured that grow vertically from the stem in clusters.
- Japanese Knot Weed has a strong root system and can spread about 10 metres from the parent stem.
- It has the ability to grow through concrete and asphalt.
- This fast-growing invasive species is known to change river flows, interrupting spawning beds, it rips through roadways and even threatens foundations of homes.
- Knot Weed commonly grows in gardens, along roadsides and near old buildings or former building sites.
Unfortunately, getting rid of this plant is very difficult. While digging and cutting knotweed is a solution, this method can break up the rhizomes, creating more growing ends. To control the spread of Japanese knotweed in gardens and residential properties, stems must be cut down several times throughout the growing season to deplete the root system. Cut the base of the stalk just before flowering once the plant reaches a height of 5 to 6 feet. This usually occurs around mid to late June in Muskoka. Subsequent cuttings may occur around early August and again in early September. Persistent cutting may be combined with other options such as digging out roots and laying down tarp material for several years in order to successfully control this species.
Invasive Phragmites (European Common Reed). This last plant of concern is perhaps the most difficult to identify as it looks very similar to natural local reed varieties.
- grows in stands that can be extremely dense with as many as 200 stems per square metre
- can grow so densely that it crowds out other species
- can reach heights of up to 5 metres (15 feet)
- has stems that are tan or beige in colour with blue-green leaves and large, dense seed heads.
- Invasive Phragmites uptake nutrients from their environment and out-compete native plants such as cattails and willows; they result in loss of habitat for other plants and animal/aquatic life and further jeopardize species at risk.
- Inhibit agricultural drainage ditches and cause flooding.
- their dead stalks resist decay, filling in open ponds and creating dead zones unusable for wildlife
- Once their seeds colonize an area, they spread quickly with seeds and rhizomes (horizontal plant stems growing underground).
- grows in stands that are usually not as dense as the invasive plant
- well-established stands are frequently mixed with other plants
- usually has more reddish-brown stems, yellow-green leaves and smaller, sparser seed heads.
It is very important to remember that invasive Plant Species cannot be collected at the curb, due to the possibility of seed spread during transportation. Any mature invasive plants with seeds should be carefully bagged in a sealed household sized garbage bag and loaded into your vehicle (covered with a tarp or canopy), and disposed of at the Rosewarne Landfill in Bracebridge. The district of Muskoka cannot accept invasive plant waste at Transfer Stations as the seeds could become airborne and spread throughout our area. Be sure to inform the Guard upon entering that you have invasive plants (and not simply yard waste), to ensure that your Invasive Weeds are disposed of in the proper location.
Keeping Muskoka beautiful and free from these invasive plants is a mission we should all undertake. It not only enhances our wonderful environment but will help to keep our property values strong. Real Estate is not just the bricks and mortar it is “location, location, location” so let’s all work together to keep our location spectacular!