Do you have this big, leafy plant in your yard that doesn’t seem to die, no matter what you do? Guardian Ecology, a new Albert County- based non-profit wants to take care of it for you.
Knotweed (Fallopia spp.) is an invasive plant species; it’s not from Canada and is taking over many of our natural ecosystems. It grows quickly on freshly dug soil and spreads easily to new places. Its root system – called rhizomes -can grow two metres deep and several metres out from the central plant. Unlike most plants, knotweed loves to be disturbed. It can grow from pieces of its roots or stem that are as small as your little fingernail; this allows it to spread by accident very easily. The root system stores a lot of the plant’s energy, meaning it’ll come back year after year. The roots also break very easily, so having knotweed along a riverbank can actually make erosion worse even though the roots grow deeply. When it arrives in a new area, it creates dense patches that stop other plants from being able to grow.
Getting a patch of knotweed under control – and eventually getting rid of it entirely – can be a huge challenge. Since the plant stores a lot of energy in its roots, burning it can actually make it grow back stronger since it won’t have to compete with surrounding plants any more. Excavating it is very difficult, since its roots grow so far and can resprout entirely new plants. Spraying the plants with salt water or chemical pesticides can work, but usually only after years of repeated spraying, which risks exposing other plants, animals and people. Another method, used in Fundy National Park, is to cut the knotweed down to the base of the plant and cover it with black plastic, or a black tarp. This method can be (and has been) effective, and works best during the summer when the black covering will help overheat the plant underneath. However, there is enough knotweed in the Village of Alma that this method would create a lot of unsightly black tarping for several years.
Guardian Ecology is partnering with the Friends of Fundy and the Village of Alma to start controlling the knotweed in the village this spring. We’ve proposed to use a repeated cutting method to eliminate the knotweed. We will monitor every known knotweed site on a weekly basis, and cut any plant growth that we discover aboveground. Weaker knotweed clumps will be uprooted and left to dry out. This way, we force the plant to spend all of its energy trying to grow new shoots to reach the sun, eventually leading to its exhaustion and death.
If you’d like to get involved or learn more, there will be a chance in June! We will be hosting a COVID-safe volunteer event on June 9th where volunteers will learn more about knotweed and gain hands-on experience with our repeated cutting technique. If this interests you, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to register or find out more!