Tackling this invasive plant is a thorny problem in the Okanagan | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Tackling this invasive plant is a thorny problem in the Okanagan

Puncturevine spreading across an Okanagan sidewalk.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Lisa Scott
September 12, 2019 - 6:00 AM

PENTICTON - It’s a nasty plant to have to deal with if it invades your property, and there’s probably more of it around in the Okanagan than first suspected.

Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society coordinator Lisa Scott says she was operating a booth at the Summerland Fair recently when she was surprised to hear from two residents who told her of new locations of the invasive species puncture vine in the municipality.

“It’s on the move. There’s a good chance there’s more in the community that’s going undetected. It will be helpful to get extra eyes out there to get these new locations reported so we can take action on them,” she says.

Puncturevine was first reported in the Osoyoos area in the 1950s, Scott says. It has since spread slowly north up the valley, as well as into the Similkameen. It's not yet a major concern in the Thompson area, but it may be just a matter of time.

Puncturevine leaves scaled to a loonie.
Puncturevine leaves scaled to a loonie.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Lisa Scott

“There are 50 locations we know of in the Keremeos-Cawston area, but no reports west of Keremeos,” she says.

There are also sites in Okanagan Falls, Penticton and Summerland, and Scott says beyond her area she’s heard of small outbreaks north as far as Vernon.

Scott says the problem is even worse in the U.S., where the vine is a big issue in Washington, Oregon and California.

“It’s not surprising. Puncture vine has a great ability to spread through its tack-like seed pods. They’re easily embedded in tires,” she says.

The seed pods have been known to puncture bicycle tires, and Scott says she’s heard from landscapers and lawn maintenance companies the vine can pierce wheelbarrow and small equipment tires as well.

“They’re very painful to get stuck in fingers and feet, and they are a danger on some Okanagan beaches,” she says.

The pods have a toxin in their tips, which cause the entry point to remain sore for several days after the pod is extracted.

Scott says the vine has taken hold in many South Okanagan vineyards, some of which are dealing with significant outbreaks.

Small outbreaks can be hand-pulled, but this time of year the plants should be bagged for disposal. The plants can also be lightly tilled or hoed out in an agricultural setting. Puncturevine does not compete well with other growth and can also be controlled with landscape cloth or several inches of mulch.

Scott says the plants are annuals and will die with the first frost, but the seed pods continue to spread the plant. She says the focus, for now, is on preventing the puncture vine from spreading. Officials continue to identify the areas where outbreaks occur and plan to monitor and treat the pants next May and June.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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