On a steep hillside on one edge of the Skyline Park strata, roughly halfway up Bear Mountain Parkway in Langford, thousands of brilliant yellow flowers form a beautiful carpet for arbutus trees looming above.
That beauty, however, is in the eye of the not-so-educated beholder. The flowers are a sign that Scotch broom, the nemesis for native plant species on Vancouver Island, is well established here, as it is in countless wild places around the West Shore.
Skyline Park resident Erwin Allerdings moved here in 2008. In 2009 he began assembling his neighbours for semi-regular broom pulls, in which the virile plants are cut down at ground level to prevent their further spread in the designated ecological reserve areas surrounding their homes.
“Broom and blackberries are the most pervasive and aggressive of the invasive species,” said the retired agrologist and former professional forester, who’s had plenty of experience dealing with unwanted plant species.
“They can really choke out some of the (native) species.”
Both broom and blackberries sprout abundant greenery and, as they grow, produce thick stalks. Both aspects can leave native flowering plant species – not to mention the odd Douglas fir seedlings found in the rare gaps – fighting a losing battle for light, air and space.
Allerdings says the residents try to do a sweep of the wild spaces behind their homes, a practise that barely gets completed in one season before the invasive plant growth begins anew on the opposite side of the cul-de-sac.
The result of the clearing is evident in the presence of animal species on the slopes, he adds. “Once we clear it, deer tend to be in those areas,” he says. “It’s a draw for the birds and particularly for the deer.”
Of course, with more deer in the area it also can mean more cougar sightings, and the occasional bear.
Early one recent Saturday, Allerdings and next-door neighbour Derek Robinson were busy carving their way through a broom patch, awaiting more neighbours to join the effort. A row of long-armed lopping tools and a pair of Swede saws stood at the foot of the hillside, waiting to be picked up by volunteers. People come out when they can, usually at their leisure, Allerdings says. This particular slope is steep enough to prevent some of the older members of the community from tackling it, he notes.
They’d ideally like to partner on invasive species projects with the Bear Mountain Community Association. Such a partnership is a natural, Allerdings says, “especially now with the trail systems getting in place.”
From the City of Langford’s perspective, the community’s help is much appreciated when it comes to removing and controlling invasive species within its bounds.
“We’re really thankful when communities or groups come forward and assist; we encourage that,” says Mike Leskiw, Langford’s director of parks and recreation.
Allerdings says the city makes it a lot easier for volunteers, as they only ask that the piles of organic debris be gathered in an area where a city-dispatched crew can get to it and collect it for disposal.
For more information on how to assist in removing invasive species, contact the City of Langford parks department at 250-478-7882.