Mountain Springs Nature Retreat: A Battle With Killer Burdock

Arctium minus, otherwise known as Common Burdock, is an invasive plant species that can be found throughout the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys.  Famous for its role as the inspiration for Velcro; Burdock also has a more sinister side.  The extremely sticky seed heads can trap small birds and mammals and entangle them to such an extent that they never escape.  Shown below, plants can reach heights of 9 feet by the time they bolt in their second year and can carry dozens of these large seed heads. (For more information on Burdock, click here)
Lia McKinnon MSc. holding a sizable Burdock specimen at the Mountain Springs Nature Retreat
In 1991, Phyllis Jmaeff bought the historic Maron Lake property.  The 340 acre property is located within the Maron Valley approximately 6 kilometers from the junction of  Hwy 97 and Hwy 3A.  Phyllis was drawn to the natural beauty and diverse wildlife that is common throughout the entire valley.  She established a certified organic farm and named her property and BnB the Mountian Spring Nature Retreat. (Look for Phyllis selling her produce every Saturday at the Penticton Farmer's Market.)

Kieran McIntosh of OSSS standing alongside Phyllis Jmaeff on the front porch of her home, the Mountain Springs Nature Retreat
In 2010, Phyllis was designated a Wildllfe Habitat Steward with The Land Conservancy.  A stewardship agreement that is maintained today by the Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society, or OSSS.  That's how I came to meet Phyllis and spend a few beautiful summer days on her property.  As the field technician for the OSSS, one of my responsibilities is to help our stewards manage the invasive species on their properties. On this occasion, I was happy to be accompanied for two days by Lia McKinnon, a biologist who spends much of her time working with the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC.

The historic highway cut is still maintained by Phyllis to allow access to the lower portions of her property.  It is along this disturbed corridor that the Burdock has managed to establish.  Likely, transported here on the backs of animals that use the old highway as a convenient migration corridor.  Believe me when I tell you, if you're going to be pulling or clipping Burdock seeds, gloves and long sleeves are required.  Each seed head has hundreds of near microscopic hairs that don't hurt when they stab you but will be a constant irritation for days to follow.  Lia and I both had hundreds of these cursed hairs embedded, in some places that, frankly, should not have been physically possible.  The two shots below show some of the progress that we made along the way.  In total, 5 contractor garbage bags full of seed heads were removed and taken to the landfill.

The Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society is looking to welcome new habitat stewards.  If you, or someone you know, are interested in conserving wildlife habitat on your property, email or call Alyson Skinner at 250-809-1980.

Posted by Kieran McIntosh, OSSS Field Technician