Weeds, weeds, everywhere weeds

Editor's Note: Our Watershed Legacy Program is proud to support Leta Pezderic as she tackles the leafy spurge invasion on her property along the Oldman River north of Coaldale. She was able to bring together a group of her neighbours along the river to create a watershed stewardship group to combat this nasty invasive! Leta is the former Program Coordinator at OWC and spent many years battling invasives on our behalf throughout the watershed. She's continuing this work along her own stretch of the Oldman while working for the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).

The OWC is hosting a series of events, "Voices of the Oldman: Agriculture Matters" (VOTO) to help inform the future of our Ag projects, such as the WLP.  We (OWC) are hosting our next VOTO events Wednesday, March 1st at the Stavely Community Hall and also Wednesday, March 8th at the Twin Butte Community Hall. We will be talking about the future of watershed stewardship - weeds, water, urban, rural. The event in Twin Butte will be held in partnership with the NCC before their annual "Eat and Greet".

To register for either event click here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/voices-of-the-oldman-agriculture-matters-tickets-30869942830?ref=estwenivtefor001

This blog was originally posted on the Nature Conservancy of Canada blog "Land Lines".


Father daughter weed pull, Norm Elford and Leta Pezderic, at Knapweed Rodeo in Waterton (Photo courtesy Leta Pezderic)

Father daughter weed pull, Norm Elford and Leta Pezderic, at Knapweed Rodeo in Waterton (Photo courtesy Leta Pezderic)

Leta Pezderic, natural area manager for southeast Alberta, joined our team (*NCC team) in April, 2015. She and her husband live alongside the coulees of the Oldman River — a perfect place for their three boys and all their critters to roam free! She wrote this story to share her passion about controlling invasive weeds on Alberta's prairie grasslands.

"Ignorance is bliss" is a statement that couldn't be truer when you're referring to weeds! Oh, how I envy the individuals who drive by fields of ox-eye daisy and exclaim, "How beautiful!”

I remember the summer that blissful ignorance was taken from me: it was my first year working in Waterton Lakes National Park as crew leader for the weed program. I literally remember having nightmares of knapweed rosettes popping up faster than I could spray them! The following three summers my job was to search for and map out unknown weed infestations throughout the park to assist with control efforts.

Needless to say, after those four years I could no longer go for a hike without ruining it by finding a species that didn't belong.

What's a weed, anyway?

For those that wonder what all the fuss is about when it comes to weeds, do you wonder why it is so important we control the spread of them and what will happen if we don’t? Well, if you think about what a weed actually is, it will help you answer those questions.

Invasive plants, or “weeds,” are plants that are not native to their current habitat and have a negative effect on the ecosystem by encroaching on native species' food and/or habitat. When native species are displaced by non-natives, this can have a major impact on the health of our watershed.

Spotted knapweed (Photo by Leta Pezderic)

Spotted knapweed (Photo by Leta Pezderic)

On a mission to control weeds

I have built on my knowledge around weeds and carried a passion to control them throughout all the different jobs I have had over the years, as well as in my personal life. I can't count how many weed pulls I've hosted or been a part of throughout southern Alberta. It’s a great feeling seeing all those garbage bags filled with millions of seeds that will not grow into adult plants! And weed pulls are often a great social gathering; people come together, sharing in a common goal and end the day with a real sense of accomplishment.

This spring, I helped organize an evening with my neighbors that live along the Oldman River, downstream of Lethbridge, to discuss establishing a watershed stewardship group along the mainstem (which was supported by the Oldman Watershed Council). And the hot topic was... you guessed it: weeds!

We have a major leafy spurge problem all along the banks of the Oldman River, and everyone feels a bit desperate for an answer on how to control this extremely invasive species. The group was very interested in hearing about the use of sheep to control leafy spurge and wondered if that could be a project that we might pursue in the future. We’ve made plans to follow up on this idea and look at how we can seek funding for a large-scale project such as this. In the meantime, I will continue to mow and chemically treat the spurge along our stretch of the river to prevent further spread.

I am so grateful for all the weed control efforts going on out there! Thanks to the many activities undertaken by dedicated groups and individuals, we all get to enjoy the benefits of a healthier, cleaner watershed! 

Duke Pezderic in a field of Leafy Spurge (Photo by Leta Pezderic)

Duke Pezderic in a field of Leafy Spurge (Photo by Leta Pezderic)

I asked my dad, Norm Elford, to write a poem for me capturing my passion about this topic, and I feel he did a pretty perfect job doing so! Enjoy!!

Under the Influence

By Norm Elford 2016

Weeds, weeds, everywhere weeds
We have to get control
Noxious, invasive, prohibited, toxic
We're always on patrol

Nightmares filled with knapweed
Being smothered in thousands of seeds
Feeling toxins permeating the earth
A bad dream that never recedes

The bothersome burrs of the burdock
That stick from your hair to your socks
They attach themselves to everything
Except maybe very smooth rocks

Loosestrife's a pretty perennial
With rhizomes and woody taproot
Each plant can produce 2 million seeds
That last 20 years to boot

Leafy spurge roots reach up to 35 feet
That's pretty darn far don't you see
In meters that's 10.668
For people much younger than me

Buttercup, blueweed, black henbane
And scentless chamomile
The thought of spreading rhizomes
Sure makes it hard to smile

It's all so darn confusing
Sometimes I just can't think
It's enough to drive a property steward
To contemplate a drink

Toad flax, hounds tongue, and common mullein
But now... what's this I see?
Better call the Ag Fieldman
For the County or MD

He'll tell us what the darn thing is
And hopefully...I pray
He may even know the right concoction
For tank or backpack spray

Was that 50 mls for 13 gallons
Or 2 litres to a tank?
I hope it's not 5 gallons
That'll surely break the bank

Was that Imperial or metric
Are we here, or USA?
His advice....2 healthy oz....

Tequila saves the day