Small pulls for a big cause: Ridding the Happy Valley Forest of invasive species

White trilliums in Happy Valley Forest, Ontario (Photo by NCC)

White trilliums in Happy Valley Forest, Ontario (Photo by NCC)

July 4, 2017 | by Justin Brodeur | 0 Comments

Summer in the Happy Valley Forest is the best time to enjoy the newly emerging flowers. It's a pleasant reminder that the warm weather is well on its way. Hiking through the forest, you may come across patches of bloodroot, Mayapple and of course the forest’s iconic blankets of trillium.

Invasive garlic mustard can take over forests, harming native understory species (Photo by NCC)

Invasive garlic mustard can take over forests, harming native understory species (Photo by NCC)

However, there is an outlaw among them. At first glance, invasive garlic mustard appears to be a harmless understorey plant. But after many years, it spreads and eventually drives out native species. In areas where it has run rampant, garlic mustard dominates ecosystems by interfering with soil chemistry as well as the fungal interactions that help more than 90 per cent of native plant species thrive. As a non-native invasive plant from Europe, there are no animals or diseases that help keep garlic mustard’s numbers in check. Not to mention, one mature plant produces more than 3,000 tiny seeds, allowing it to spread quickly.

It’s important to provide education about invasive species' impact on the environment and to find the best ways to deal with them. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is active in the monitoring and removal of invasive species from the Happy Valley Forest; one of the Greater Toronto Area’s largest intact forests.

Red eft on leaf litter (Photo by NCC)

Red eft on leaf litter (Photo by NCC)

The saying “many hands make light work” is especially true when it comes to preventing the spread of garlic mustard. NCC hosts regular Conservation Volunteers events in the Happy Valley Forest that allow volunteers to walk among century-old trees, learn about life in the forest and most importantly pull invasive species. During these events, volunteers learn about the native species and habitats NCC is protecting. Participants may even be lucky enough to witness a red eft, a newt whose livelihood depends on an intact, diverse forest.

Conservation Volunteers removing garlic mustard from Happy Valley Forest, ON (Photo by NCC)

Conservation Volunteers removing garlic mustard from Happy Valley Forest, ON (Photo by NCC)

Just this spring, Conservation Volunteers helped remove more than 600 gallons of garlic mustard in a 20-acre (eight-hectare) area. NCC staff take great pride in the continued support we receive from our volunteers, and we encourage anyone and everyone who wants to help to join us. Not only will volunteers be able to spend time in one of the forest gems of the Oak Ridges Moraine, but they will be part of the effort to conserve the Happy Valley Forest for generations to come.

Join a Conservation Volunteers event in your area in 2017 and start making a difference where it counts.

About the Author

Justin Brodeur is a conservation technician with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ontario Region.

Read more about Justin Brodeur.

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