Combating foreshore invader

Woody Nightshade: Volunteers needed to remove vine.

Toxic: The red berries from Woody Nightshade are poisonous and the plant itself can damage habitat.

Toxic: The red berries from Woody Nightshade are poisonous and the plant itself can damage habitat.

The words “free” and “you-pick” often draw enthusiastic crowds.

That’s what members of the Salmon Arm Bay Nature Enhancement Society and the Shuswap Naturalists are hoping will happen for a  May 25 event at the foreshore.

Unfortunately, what participants pick is not something they are going to want to keep – it’s called woody nightshade.

But you’ll be doing the nature sanctuary and its inhabitants an enormous favour.

This aggressively growing semi-woody perennial is a vine with stems that can stretch over two metres, says naturalist Ed McDonald.

It thrives in wet soil by climbing over and among other plants to form a large, dense thicket along roadsides, fence rows, in marshes, ponds and river banks.

Each of its many red berries are poisonous to humans and livestock and can produce up to 30 seeds, which are then scattered by some birds that are immune to its toxicity.

But it also spreads by sending out horizontal suckering roots or by stem fragments.

In marshy places, it will overtake fish habitat, and out-compete native plants such as cattails, willows, and alders among others that provide nesting material and locations for birds.

“Woody Nightshade may climb as high as 30 feet into trees, while dying back close to the ground in winter and waiting for spring to begin its aggressive march once again,” says McDonald.

Locally, new growth appears in mid to late April, flowers from May to September and sports berries throughout summer and into autumn.

Although native to Europe and Asia, Woody Nightshade has become an invasive weed in parts of North America since its arrival in the mid-1800s. This vine belongs to the same plant family as the potato, and also goes by the name Bittersweet, or Bittersweet Nightshade.

Last May, a group of about a dozen weed wranglers gathered to begin removing this invader from the marsh, collecting 25 large garbage bags that filled three pickup trucks. This spring, they hope to mount another attack on the prolific plant.

The weed pulling activity planned for this spring has the support of the BC Invasive Species Council which provides bags and gloves and also pays for access to the CSRD landfill to dispose of the bags.

All that’s needed are willing workers to help eliminate this unwelcome plant from the marsh at 8:45 a.m. Thursday, May 25.

For more information, email or call Ed Mcdonald at 250-835-8802.


Salmon Arm Observer