Bad weeds and what to do about them

‘They can’t do nothing’

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

The Himalayan balsam is a prohibited noxious weed in Alberta. That means municipalities are required (i.e. they don’t have a choice), to control it.

So why is it growing unchecked along Sawridge Creek in Slave Lake? If left alone, this weed will take over and choke out all (or most) native species.

“The municipality is required to enforce,” says Chris Neeser of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “They can’t do nothing.”

That’s the theory; in fact municipalities can easily do nothing and do it all the time.

So what can a concerned citizen do? Lodge a complaint is the first thing, Neeser says. Then it’s on the record and the province can keep an eye on it and step in.

But will that actually happen?

“We don’t like to,” Neeser says. “But we would.”

The system of weed control looks very well on paper, but has holes in it you can drive a truck through. The Himalayan balsam (impatiens glandulifera), for example is (or was) being sold by greenhouses for flowerbeds. It’s all very well in your yard, but once it is out, it is hard to stop.

It is growing in various spots by the creek and will certainly spread its seeds through the watershed if not removed, physically (chemicals won’t work in this case) before the plant matures. This is not the first time the plant has shown up on public land in town. It apparently escapes from flower beds (where it shouldn’t be growing in the first place). An outbreak of it behind 3rd Ave. NE on the creek fringe a few years ago was successfully dealt with. That was when the town had a contractual agreement with the M.D. of Lesser Slave River for sharing its weed-control expertise. That agreement was allowed to lapse this year – evidently as a cost-saving measure.

On the other hand, the town’s parks department did remove about a truckload of the noxious stuff, says their boss, Garry Roth. There simply isn’t enough time or manpower to treat all noxious weeds in town like that, but Roth acknowledges the Himalayan balsam is a particularly nasty one, that has even been known to choke off waterways.

Himalayan balsam by the creek.

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