Volunteer groups dedicate time removing harmful plants

Invasive species threatening natural ecosystems throughout the province

A volunteer assists in removing blackberry bushes in Stanley Park. Photo: Max Leckie
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By Max Leckie

For Joi Mozuna, removing Himalayan blackberries from Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park reduces the stress from his day-to-day job as a sales rep. 

Helping preserve nature is an added bonus, said Mozuna, who volunteers for the Stanley Park Ecology Society.

“It’s like meditation almost. That’s what I love. I love when I cut the blackberries I don’t really think about anything else,” said Mozuna, one of many Vancouverites who have been volunteering to remove an abundance of invasive plants in the hopes of promoting biodiversity in local parks.

“I wanted to be in nature and feel the air,” Mozuna added.

Invasive plant species are non-native plants that have no natural predators. They are able to spread rapidly and out-compete local plants. They also have the potential to damage habitats, infrastructure and drive other plants out of their native areas.

Himalayan blackberries have spread throughout much of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. 

Gail Wallin, executive director of the Invasive Species Council of BC, said there are plenty of other species to manage.

Scotch broom, or Cytisus scoparius, is an evergreen shrub that was brought in from Europe and was sold in flower shops. It has now taken hold in a very similar region like the blackberries.

“It displaces the native ecosystem. It makes it difficult to grow trees,” Wallin said.

 Kyle Koonar also volunteers in Stanley Park.

“It’s a good way to get volunteer hours, work outside and help the environment all at once,” he said.

Langara College’s Community Change Program, also known as C Change, offers a similar opportunity where volunteers remove the invasive Scotch broom from Iona Beach Regional Park on Saturday Feb. 29.

Maggie Stewart, coordinator of Langara’s VOLT volunteer program, encourages people to dedicate their time to help the planet. 

“If you come out for four hours, you can do something that has profound and lasting change for the ecological community,” she said.

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