Make sure what you're buying won't cause damage

The Weed Warrior: Assess before you buy – The damage can be huge

Dame’s Rocket is on the loose in Creston. Knotweed is in Kimberley. Purple Loosestrife is an annual management problem between Wasa and Fort Steele. Baby’s Breath has invaded Cranbrook and the RDEK; and Butterfly Bush is spreading in southern B.C.

They are some of the environmentally and financially costly ornamental plants that we should not be buying, and garden centres should not be selling.

If you want the details on these ornamentals that I wrote columns about in the last few years, Google the name along with Weed Warrior Frank, to see my article, or other information that is available on the internet.

As a society, what we should have learned by now, is to assess the potential environmental and financial damage from what we want, before we decide whether to buy it.

Because, history has shown the damage can be huge. Before 1900, most of the lumber in eastern North America came from Chestnut trees. They were called “King of the Forest,” “The Redwood of the East,” or “The-cradle-to-grave Tree,” because Chestnut trees supplied most of the wood people used for building everything they needed, from cradles all the way to coffins.

Then, in about 1876, a mail-order tree nursery owner in New Jersey, chose to import 12 ornamental Chestnut Trees from the other side of the world. Those 12 Chestnut trees arrived, bringing a blight fungus- which North American Chestnut trees had almost no defense against. The 12 infected trees were sold to wealthy American buyers. Spreading 50 miles a year, that fungus had infected and killed billions of Chestnut trees in America and Southern Ontario by the 1950s, destroying an annual crop of 20 million pounds of edible Chestnuts. Chestnuts had so much food value, they were a “Keystone” food species called “Corn on a Tree.” People sometimes paid their taxes, or their way through college with chestnuts.

The loss of edible Chestnuts caused local populations of 275 species of animals —like deer, rabbits, squirrels, grouse, turkeys, racoons, and bears — to collapse.

It is estimated that there are only a few thousand surviving Chestnut trees scattered throughout the eastern American forests, today.

Canadian Chestnut Council researchers and the University of Guelph are trying to breed some blight resistant Chestnuts to rebuild the historical Chestnut groves that used to make up 20 per cent of the forest on the eastern half of our continent.

It would be helpful if garden centres and garden clubs set a environmentally and financially responsible example by collaborating and cooperating with governments and Invasive Species Councils, to make sure that only non-invasive species of ornamental plants are bought and sold in our communities today.

Google ISCBC to access a copy of the Invasive Species Council of B.C.’s Grow Me Instead (GMI) list of non-invasive ornamental plants.

Weed Warrior Frank