Wilderness Watch cleanup cancelled this year, residents reminded to be on the lookout for invasive plants

Giant hogweed, an invasive, phototoxic species is one of the main culprits.

Though early June typically marks the annual Wilderness Watch cleanup, which sees the community clear Lake Cowichan, Honeymoon Bay, Youbou, Mesachie Lake and Skutz Falls of forgotten trash and debris, organizer Denis Martell recently announced that the cleanup would have to be put on hold this year. Among the contributing factors of the cancellation is the overwhelming amount of invasive plant species continuing to crop up around the area.

Among the biggest culprits this summer are  gorse (Ulex) and giant hogweed (Heracleum Mantegazzianum), a phototoxic weed originally introduces as an ornamental plant.

“It looks like a beautiful white flower until it touches your hand and melts it, it’s like battery acid,” Wilderness Watch coordinator Denis Martell said. “With gorse, the deer won’t even walk in it.”

Martell said that the invasive plants are especially dense around the lake, on Hill 60 and on the road to Port Renfrew. When removing giant hogweed, hazmat suits are commonly used.

Despite being cancelled, Martell said the Wilderness Watch has been very successful in past years, and that it may not be necessary to hold the event annually. In general, the area looks to be cleaner than in previous years, aside from one problem area near the old truck wash outside of Mesachie Lake. Though he wasn’t able to confirm yet, he said that he suspects asbestos may have been dumped in the area, but he would have to look into it further before following up with the RCMP.

Invasive plant species should be reported to the Invasive Species Council by phone at 250-857-2472 or through email at info@coastalisc.com.