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#LSN_Outdoors   OFAH  EcoSuperior Invasive Plant Walking Tour

THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO  -  August 12, 2017  -(LSN)  Ontario is home to 441 invasive plant species. Many of these plants have been introduced to Thunder Bay and the surrounding area, and they are a threat to local biodiversity. On Thursday, August 17th at 6:00 p.m., Sarah Friesen, OFAH Invasive Species Community Outreach Liaison, will host the Invasive Plant Walking Tour to increase awareness of invasive species and how they spread. The tour will begin with a short introduction to invasive plant identification, monitoring, and control. There will be free invasive species informational resources for participants to take.

The walk will take place in the trails beside Boulevard Lake, and will start and finish in the parking lot at the end of Clarke St. off of Algoma. The route is mostly flat but there may be some uneven footing. The tour will be approximately one hour total at an easy to moderate pace. Participants are advised to bring sturdy walking shoes, a reusable water bottle, and wear comfortable clothing.

Some invasive plants, including Japanese Knotweed, Garlic Mustard, and Himalayan Balsam, were introduced to North America over 100 years ago as domestic plants. Since then, even more invasive plants have been intentionally brought to North America for gardening, and some have arrived by accident. They have since escaped captivity and have spread across Ontario, and into Thunder Bay.

Himalayan Balsam is a very widespread invasive plant in Thunder Bay and it will be featured on the tour. It is an invasive annual plant originally from the western Himalayas that was introduced in the late 1800’s as an ornamental plant. It is a prolific nectar-producer, allowing it to out-compete native plants for pollinators. Exploding seed capsules help to expand its populations, which will become dense enough to form monocultures and stop plants such as raspberries and jewelweed from growing. On the tour, participants will learn how they can help to stop invasive plants like Himalayan Balsam from spreading throughout Thunder Bay.

Invasive plants grow quickly and in large numbers, in addition to being able to spread very easily over long distances. A few seeds caught in the mud on a hiker’s shoe, or a plant fragment caught in the wheelwell of a truck is enough to start a new population hundreds of kilometers away. Seeds and plant fragments can even travel in ship ballast water and bait buckets. Once an invasive plant is introduced they can quickly take over and displace native wildlife – this reduces the health of local ecosystems.

 “Talking about invasive plants and raising awareness in the community is a step in the right direction to stop them from becoming more of an issue in Thunder Bay,” says Sarah Friesen. “Thunder Bay is a very important area, because we have a lot of small, relatively new populations of invasive plants, and we have the opportunity to stop them from spreading further. The Invasive Plant Walking Tour is a chance to teach people how they can help.”