July 10, 2016 - Thomas Porter, Outreach Assistant OWC
This weekend was packed with learning experiences for my partner Ryan and I. It was a much needed break from some of the survey work we have been doing. Our adventures gave us the chance to see some new country, meet new people and represent the OWC in front of a different audience.
On July 9th, the Pincher Creek watershed group invited us to take part in their annual Blueweed Blitz on upper sections of Pincher Creek itself. More than 50 people gathered at a ranch southwest of the town site to get organized for the day’s festivities. Once everyone had their shovels, garbage bags and gloves we headed off to do battle with one of southern Alberta’s most obnoxious invasive plants.
Blueweed, or “Viper’s Bugloss” (Echium vulgare) as it is also known, is a member of the borage family Boraginaceae. This highly adaptive plant, thrives in areas of disturbance, along rocky creek beds and shorelines. Its origin has been traced to Asia and Europe but it made its way to North America in the last 50 years.
Blueweed colonizes areas very quickly, taking up resources and space from other native species. Ranchers and agrologists view the plant as a blight on the landscape as it will quickly displace forage grasses and plants used for grazing. It is toxic to livestock due to high levels of alkaloids. Viper’s Bugloss’ spiny stalk is painful to touch and can also cause skin rashes. A long taproot makes it difficult to eradicate by any other means other than hand pulling and chemical spraying. One plant can produce more than 2,800 bristly seeds which can be transported by wind, water and animals.
Volunteer groups headed out in all directions, led by local residents, farmers and ranchers. After six hours of digging, crouching, yanking and yarding, volunteers came back with hundreds of giant yellow garbage bags full of prickly prizes.
The event rounded out with a catered meal, music and prizes for the biggest baddest blueweed busters. For those wanting to lend a hand next year you can call Caron Kozachenko at 403-339-0744.