Stories from stewards of the land: The Cuzen property (Part One)
I have had many positive interactions with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) over the years. It is surely one of my favourite nature groups to volunteer with. You see, I have no formal educational background in botany or environmental studies or anything of that kind. Yet when I meet an NCC person and they say, “I’ve heard of you,” (and if it isn’t for something bad), it really does make me feel good.
Somehow NCC makes it seem real, and not just a result of an earnest urging to thank volunteers every chance it gets. This thought has led me to find out how I got mixed up with NCC in the first place.
I first signed up for a volunteer event in 2009 at the Cuzen property at Chatsworth (the sole property within the Galbraith stewardship project), and I’ve been engaged with NCC ever since. As a volunteer land steward, I was encouraged and inspired to report non-native species and illegal dumping of trash on the property and along the roadway. From that point on, I started putting old pool covers on the periwinkle to smother it.
Here is a copy of an email I sent to NCC Conservation Biologist for Midwestern Ontario, John Gerrath, on June 9, 2009:
"I met an older couple and their dog out for a walk along the side road in front of the Cuzen property. (They were picking up trash as they went, which is to be commended.) I mentioned that I was a volunteer at the Galbraith property.
They wanted to know what was going on with the periwinkle. I said we were trying to get rid of it. They said, 'Why would you want to do that? It is beautiful.' I explained that there was a threat of it displacing native plants. They said that they had been there for 25 years and it had hardly spread at all in that time. I just kind of shrugged my shoulders.
We then went on to talk about what flowers were in bloom. They directed me to a beautiful display of wildflowers/orchids just up the road. I went to have a look. It was a big patch of forget-me-nots — another invasive! I did see a few showy orchids and will see if I can locate one on the Galbraith property the next time that I am there…
As they walked away they were discussing rescuing some periwinkle before it was all gone. : ) "
Beware the pretty invasive species
Non-native plants might be pretty, and might not always spread very fast at first, but they generally support very few insects compared with native plants. This means that there are fewer insects around for birds to feed their chicks — parent birds have to work harder to raise their young, meaning that in the end fewer survive. Non-native invasive plants can also impact pollinators, which can be important for pollinating some of our food crops.
Also, even though a non-native plant may not change in abundance very much for years, sometimes, for unpredictable and sometimes unknown reasons, they can suddenly explode and spread like crazy.
So that's how it all got started, my role as a land steward with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Stay tuned for Part Two of this blog, where I will take you through a special part of the Galbraith property.