Fighting invaders with seeds

“It increases our chances of not having to deal with invasives in the future,” said Fulton.

Alisa Gordaneer Special to the Citizen

Invasive plants like Scotch broom and Himalayan blackberry are difficult to control, and when they take over an area, they pose a threat to more delicate and rare native plant species.

That’s why Katy Fulton wants to fight these invaders — not just by organizing efforts to pull out the invasive plants, but by gathering native plant seeds to help those species survive.

Fulton, who works for the Nature Conservancy of Canada as its west coast coordinator of stewardship, knows how persistent blackberry and broom plants can be. But she’s even more persistent in her efforts to help restore natural areas in the Cowichan Valley.

She explains that when a native plant population is struggling, invasive plants like blackberry and broom can easily take over an area. But if the native plants are healthy, it’s harder for invasives to put down roots or take hold.

So this month, Fulton is rounding up a team of volunteers to collect seeds from native plants and grasses, which can be propagated at the plant nursery at the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve, and re-introduced to fight invasives in areas like nearby Maple Mountain.

The idea is to introduce the new native plants, like native grasses and death camas, by both planting them and sprinkling seeds in areas that have been cleared, either by volunteers or through controlled burns. This gives the native species a fighting chance against invasives, which in turn helps the ecosystem recover from the invaders.

“It increases our chances of not having to deal with invasives in the future,” said Fulton.

Volunteers are invited to join the seed collection efforts on Thursday, July 30, beginning at 10:30 a.m.

The group will meet at the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve, on the back side at 1241 Maple Bay Rd. From there, they’ll carpool to the seed collection sites on Maple Mountain.

Volunteers are advised to bring water, snacks and weather-appropriate clothing — and cameras to catch the view from the top. Gloves will be provided.

For more information, email Katy Fulton at bc@conservationvolunteers.ca, or visit the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s website at www.natureconservancy.ca