Metchosin resident Kathy Atherton

Metchosinites stop invasive plant in its tracks

Despite its pretty yellow flowers, tansy ragwort – like broom – is not welcome

When Kathy Atherton sees the golden glow of tansy ragwort, she hones in for the kill.

“I pull it wherever I see it,” she said of the invasive plant, which can be removed easily due to its shallow root system. “The roots usually aren’t substantial. If they’ve been cut with a mower, the roots get much stronger.”

Around her home on La Bonne Road and up Liberty Drive in Metchosin, ragwort is getting harder to find, but it once flourished. “I have been pulling it for 12 to 15 years, just yanking it out whenever I see it.”

Atherton hopes others take similar initiative and nip the problem in the bud before it becomes more pervasive, as has Scotch broom.

“I suddenly realized, if we let this plant keep growing it’ll just keep moving. It’s a survivor,” she said.

The tansy ragwort is more often found in rural areas, such as Metchosin, East Sooke, Sooke and on the Saanich Peninsula.

“I’ve seen masses of it on the Malahat,” Atherton said.

She encourages volunteers in Metchosin to join Tackle Tansy Ragwort Day, July 28. People can participate by pulling the plant on their own properties or heading out to public areas such as the Galloping Goose Trail.

“We are having this day to raise people’s awareness of it.”

The plant can be poisonous if eaten by cattle, horses or goats. While the animals wouldn’t instinctively eat it, the plant can get mixed into hay fields and accidentally be fed to animals.

“It’s cumulative and the toxicity builds up over time,” Atherton said.

On the other hand, sheep can tolerate the plant to some extent and can be used as a biological control to keep the plant’s spread in check.

As well, cinnabar moths have been brought in from Europe to help control the plant. They eat the flowers and work their way down the plant.

“I’ve seen patches of ragwort that don’t have cinnabar moths on them and I am considering bringing some from other plants,” Atherton said. “Tansy ragwort doesn’t recognize borders.”

To volunteer to pull ragwort in a specific area or to partner up with someone else on July 28, call Atherton at 250-474-1016.

charla@goldstreamgazette.com