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Eradicating Giant Hogweed a top priority
Some nasty invasive species have made their homes in the Lower Mainland, but Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam think they have got a handle on one of the worst of them — Giant Hogweed.
Originally imported from Asia to Britain because of its large ornamental flowers, Giant Hogweed has now made its home in the Lower Mainland, putting kids, animals and even adults at risk.
Giant Hogweed poses a serious threat to human health because the sap contains a phytophototoxin that can cause painful recurring third-degree burns on the skin even up to 10 years after exposure.
Kids have used the large, hollow stems as pea shooters and telescopes resulting in burns and when the sap gets in eyes it can can cause temporary or permanent blindness.
This time of year Giant Hogweed could be identified by its prominent seed head and be about 15 feet high. But Coquitlam's urban forestry manager hopes you don't see any because the city has made it a top priority to get rid of them on 40 city properties and required 30 homeowners to get rid of the plant on their property.
"We've eradicated it from the sites we know of," Englund said. "It's the one common invasive plant in the area that puts people at risk. The other reason why it's also worth putting the effort is early detection."
Homeowners who have it should use care, following the suggestions on the Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver website (www.iscmv.ca) but many opt to hire contractors.
Coquitlam has an information bulletin and a reporting form on its website. (www.coquitlam.ca) and Port Coquitlam is also cracking down on Giant Hogweed, and encourages people to report the plant, says a city spokesperson.
The towering plant is a problem elsewhere in the Lower Mainland and Jennifer Grenz, development and projects manager for the Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver, said crews have found more hogweed this year than ever before.
Public awareness is key to controlling the problem pant, she said.
Meanwhile, the council has another problem on its hands — European fire ants, which haven't yet made their way into the Tri-Cities but are a problem in Burnaby, Vancouver, Richmond, the District of North Vancouver and Chilliwack, as well as Victoria.
"The ants can sting you and they swarm very quickly when they detect any ground movement," Grenz said. "It's not just one ant — you're swarmed so there are going to be many ants on you."
They've caused significant reactions in some people, Grenz said. "This is the latest public safety concern for us."
The council's website explains how to collect a sample of suspect ants and send it for free identification by B.C.'s agriculture ministry.
— with files from Jeff Nagel