It’s a beautiful day for a walk. But before going on a stroll through the woods in shorts, a t-shirt and ankle-biter socks, there’s something you should know: noxious weeds – particularly wild parsnip – are an increasing problem in Eastern Ontario.
“I’ve been impacted a few times over the years,” relates Serge Buy, who this spring started the Facebook page SDG – Noxious Weeds to warn local residents about the danger. “It’s absolutely annoying and it hurts.”
While many people think of weeds such as wild parsnip and poison ivy are only a danger in the woods or fields, Buy and his Facebook page would beg to disagree. His most recent infection occurred while cutting the lawn on his five-acre property north of Alexandria, when he was “dusted” with wild parsnip blown around by his lawn tractor.
“It was a windy situation and you go back and forth and I think the wind just sent all the stuff right on me,” explains Buy, who notes he is sensitive to the infections due to past contact. Wild parsnip infections can be reactivated – most notably by heat – for up to six years.
Buy’s property has been regular sprayed and he is vigilant in cutting his lawn and controlling weeds on his property. But nearby patches of wild parsnip – some as close as two metres from his property – make it almost impossible to keep the fast-spreading weeds at bay.
“I’ve lost the battle – I’ve got about two and a half good acres and two and a half bad,” says Buy of his five acres. “I can control it on my property, but if the neighbours or township don’t do anything it’s irrelevant, because it spreads through the wind and the seeds are very active.”
Municipalities each deal with the problem of noxious weeds differently. Many townships and communities conduct spraying programs in roadside ditches and other areas maintained by the municipality.
In 2022, as the problem with wild parsnip and other noxious weeds continues to grow, several municipalities have taken further steps to tackle the problem. The Township of North Glengarry has gotten on board this year, releasing a pamphlet on wild parsnip this spring and taking proactive steps to control noxious weeds, as well as educate residents on the issue. North Glengarry is also continuing to spray along roadways and in ditches in the township.
“We would like to move away from spraying, but surveys have shown (wild parsnip) is quite prolific across North Glengarry,” says Tim Wright, Director of Public Works for the Township of North Glengarry. “Hopefully we can get to a point where we can just do spot treatments that don’t require spraying at all.”
The United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (SDG) is also attempting to tackle the problem, issuing a notice to residents on June 29 regarding noxious weeds. The notice lists Wild Parsnip, Wild Chervil, Ragweed and Poison Ivy as common in the region and requests residents destroy all noxious weeds on their properties. The notice refers to the Province of Ontario’s Weed Control Act, which can be found here https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90w05 .
While people working on their properties, or taking a hike in the woods, can protect themselves by wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts and other clothing, Buy notes the problem runs deeper than just protecting oneself.
“I care about the kids,” says Buy, whose daughter was impacted for several days this spring by a wild parsnip infection on her face.
Everyone should make an effort to identify and destroy noxious weeds on their property, the North Glengarry resident says. It is only through a group effort that the problem will be solved. As long as other land nearby remains unkept, efforts by individuals can only slow the problem on their own properties says the administrator of the SDG – Noxious Weeds Facebook page.
“Once the flowers start spraying their seeds, it’s irrelevant what I do – next year I’ll have more,” Buy explains. “This is why everybody needs to make an effort and everyone needs to understand the importance (of controlling noxious weeds).
The Director of Public Works for North Glengarry agrees that property owners have an important part to play in the control of noxious plants that goes even beyond provincial regulations.
“Even just the identification of hot spots really goes a long way to help us control it where it is needed,” Wright says.
While local governments are working to educate residents, there are still too many locations overrun with wild parsnip and other noxious weeds, Buy says, and he would like to see a financial penalty for property owners who do not control noxious weeds on their properties.
“People are not taking their responsibilities seriously and I’m hoping that the township and the province start fining people to make them think twice about this. Until people get hit in the wallet it’s not their problem.”