Original Published on Aug 15, 2022 at 12:00
By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
“Why do we even need a planting list for residents in Jasper?”
It’s what Marci DeWandel says is probably one of the biggest questions that people offer her. That and, “What’s the big deal?”
The vegetation restoration officer for Jasper National Park offered an update on the new planting list and guidelines that came into effect this spring. She pointed out the Ox-eye Daisy and apple trees as some obvious examples of beautiful and food-bearing flora that, simply put, just don’t belong in Jasper.
“There’s many, many examples of where introduced flowers and species can become an invasive weed problem if they’re left unchecked. They get into our native plant ecosystems, and we just don’t want that,” she said.
“As a collective responsibility, we’ve asked residents and leaseholders to avoid introducing invasive species, and that means following these planting guidelines in their gardens and on their lawns.”
She asked residents to do what they can to keep non-native plants out of the greater park area while also encouraging native plants whenever possible.
Non-native plants can quickly become a threat to the ecological integrity in the park, she continued, pointing out how fast they can take over open meadows and grassland areas. That’s why they consider those areas to be very sensitive eco sites: the natural balance is that easy to upset.
As a demonstration, she suggested that people drive around the park and observe any area where there has been construction or has experienced any disturbance otherwise. The first species that move in there are typically the non-native and grasses and forbs (any herbaceous flowering plant like clover that is not a grass, sedge or rush).
The Invasive Species Act and the Noxious Weed Act of Alberta both mean that Parks Canada has a legal responsibility to make sure those non-native species don’t take root. If one bad weed pops up, Parks Canada strives to arrive soon afterward to completely eradicate it.
Under both acts, there are a number of species where people are legally responsible to completely eradicate as soon as they find them. The very ecological integrity of the natural splendour of this national park is at stake.
“There’s a full-on monitoring and inventory program that goes on to find these certain species, and then there’s other species, on the other hand, that we are responsible legally to control as much as we can,” DeWandel said. “We are obliged to do that as well.”
That’s why the Ox-eye Daisy is on the hit list. DeWandel said she understands that people like them because they’re beautiful, but that doesn’t negate the fact that they are still invasive plants that Parks Canada has difficulty controlling.
Beauty isn’t the only consideration, however. Safety is a big one and DeWandel referred back to those fruit trees.
“Who doesn’t love an apple tree? They’re animal attractants. This time of year, a little later in the fall, the bears come in. They remember where those trees are, and they will come for the apples or the berries. [They] teach the young ones that this is the place to go for food. It’s a safety issue for us, and it’s a safety issue for the bears as well.”
DeWandel encouraged everyone to read the two sets of landscaping guidelines, one for the municipality and one for the park, which can be found online by searching “Landscaping in Jasper National Park” on Parks Canada’s website. They show that there are more than 100 non-native weeds and grasses that are regularly found in the park.
Those files also recommend visiting the website for the Alberta Invasive Species Council. It contains an up-to-date list of invasive species throughout the province and can be a helpful resource.
DeWandel said it’s easier to ask people to plant certain species rather than avoid the many species that should not be planted.
“For the most part, people want to do the right thing.”
If you do still have fruit trees, Parks Canada asks that you pick all the fruit as soon as it’s ripe. Get rid of that attractant, DeWandel advised, reminding everyone that you do not want to habituate local bears.
This item reprinted with permission from the Fitzhugh, Jasper, Alberta