Despite its best efforts, there’s some local bad habits the Sea to Sky Invasive Species Council (SSISC) still needs to uproot, the organization’s executive director says.
For the past two years, the council has been educating the horticulture industry on invasive plant species throughout the corridor. In spring, SSISC hosts an Invasive-free Certification program for horticulture and landscaping companies.
This year’s classes involved more than 60 participants, representing 15 different companies. While SSISC salutes those who took part, it’s still having trouble weeding out the sale of invasive plant species at garden centres — specifically big box stores.
“Some of our garden centres are still selling some invasive plants,” Kristina Swerhun said.
On top of the SSISC’s most wanted list is the ground-cover plant lamium. The aggressive plant grows quickly, she said. It travels over other forest-dwelling plants, smoothing them and cutting off their light supply.
Outside of garden centre sales, the SSISC is tackling the spread of Japanese knotweed and giant hogweed. Japanese knotweed can grow anywhere, including through walls, septic tanks and roads, Swerhun said.
“That is the one that affects property values,” she added.
Giant hogweed grows up to 12 feet tall. Its sap is toxic and can cause temporary blindness, Swerhun said. In Squamish there are five locations in which the plant has sprouted, she said, noting that SSISC is tracking the plant.
Companies that participated in the program have Invasive-free Certified stickers on their vehicles and places of business, Swerhun said.
“They are making a difference as we all work together to address this important issue,” she said.
The invasives-free certification program is financially backed by the Community Foundation of Whistler. Funding permitting, the initiative may return next year.