OKANAGAN - The province may soon take further action to control an invasive species that is becoming rife in the Okanagan.
Take a look along any rural road or street and you’ll probably see one or possibly dozens of the invasive tree known as the Siberian elm.
Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society Program Manager Lisa Scott says the province is looking at the potential to add invasive trees like the Siberian elm to the noxious weed list.
If that happens, property owners would have a legal requirement to control the tree(s) on their property.
“It would make people realize the seriousness of these trees. The Weed Control Act provides enabling legislation that would allow local governments like the regional district to add the trees to their local list of nuisance species,” she says.
Introduced to North America in the mid 1800s, the nuisance tree is known for its hardiness, fast growth and ability to thrive in many climates.
Originally from Northern China, eastern Siberia, Manchuria and Korea, the tree can quickly overtake native vegetation, growing up to 18 metres in height.
“I’ve been working in this region for 20 years and have been hearing more complaints about trees such as the Siberian elm, for the last decade or so,"
Scott says. “We don’t map the tree, so it’s hard for me to say whether the numbers are increasing, but what I think what is definitely on the increase is people’s awareness of them as weed trees."
Scott says the tree proliferates through its massive production of seed pods. Light and airy, they are easily transported by spring winds.
“The trees produce an unbelievable amount of seeds, which can form a virtual carpet on the ground in spring,” she says.
Scott says people’s issues with the trees often come from property owners’ issues with a neighbour’s encroaching tree.
“People typically call in spring, asking us for help before they broach the subject with their neighbour,” she says, adding they generally resolve the issue quickly after discussing the issue with the neighbour in question.
Scott says no one cultivates the Siberian elm as was once done, nor does anyone dig the species up for replanting, although another invasive tree, the Russian olive, is still cultivated.
“We’re trying to change that,” she says, adding very little is being done to control these invasive species at this time.
For property owners facing the difficult task of removing the trees from their property, Scott says the two most effective methods include bulldozing the roots or cutting the tree off as close to the ground and possible and painting the stumps with glysophate.
“Even small seedling trees have a more extensive root system than you’d think. If you pull them out by hand, you need to take as much root as possible,” she says. “If you just cut them down, you’ll be doing it every year.”
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