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Scorching heat didn’t stop Blueweed Blitz

Friday, 14 July 2017. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Scorching heat didn’t stop Blueweed Blitz
Participants gathered for a group shot when the weeding was done.   Photo by Tyler Ryan

Scorching heat didn’t stop Blueweed Blitz

By Tyler Ryan

It was blisteringly hot last Saturday, but the heat didn’t stop over 70 volunteers from pitching in at the 15th annual Blueweed Blitz held just south of Pincher Creek.

Weeders broke off into groups and tackled weed-infested areas within 13 different landholdings and along the creek.

“It’s basically neighbours trying to organize a day to gather and pick weeds and make it a community event,” says Bradley Bustard, one of the organizers.

Alan Jacklin is an expert on blueweed and has been involved with management of the invasive species since the late 1980s.

He explains that blueweed is a biennial plant and a single blueweed can produce hundreds of seeds.

“Nothing eats blueweed,” Alan says. “It likes the flats along the river and the moisture gets it going.”  

In the first year of growth, blueweed develops a roseate that sprouts close to the ground, distinguishable by its long green leaves and round shape.

A year later, it becomes a tall, spiny plant with identifiable blue flowers.

The noxious weed can take over large swaths of land if left untouched.

A squad from the Shell-

Waterton Complex and a team from Parks Canada based in Waterton turned out to help clear the weeds. The MD of Pincher Creek sent a spray crew who steered clear of the creek to ensure the water was not contaminated.

Blueweed shares similar characteristics with neighbouring lupins, making it hard to pinpoint.  

Key differences between the plants include blueweed typically growing a spiny stalk and the flowers that are straight and long. The lupin has a rotund flower and stalk that is not prickly.

When weeders returned, they offloaded bright yellow bags filled with the invasive plants to be taken away for disposal.

Many volunteers mentioned the importance of careful handling of blueweed. Because the plant can host hundreds of seeds, weeders need to be gentle to ensure the seeds aren’t spread.

Various awards were given out to conclude the event, including oldest picker, longest root and best-dressed for the beach.

The coveted Bent Back Award went to the Parks Canada crew because they went above and beyond what was necessary to help eliminate the weed.

Although the weeders may have put a dent in the invasive blueweed population this year, event organizers know they may not be able to fully clear the weed out any time soon.

“It’s frustrating, because I think when we started this, we were going to eliminate blueweed from the Pincher Creek, but we’ve still got a couple years to work on that,” says Bradley.    

Organizers are very thankful to everyone who came out to help with this year’s iteration of the Blueweed Blitz.

Read more in this week’s online edition here.
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From the July 12, 2017 print edition of Shootin’ the Breeze.
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In Pincher Creek, call Jessica Jensen at 403-904-2227
or in Crowsnest Pass, call Maureen Bevan at 403-563-9192.
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