Invasion of an alien species

Action! No, the film industry hasn’t resumed here in QB… not yet anyway. That’s the call to eradicate Scotch broom. Now is the time – while this invasive, alien plant is blooming its pretty little yellow head off – to cut the plant down, with loppers, right at ground level. Cue the shrieking soundtrack from the classic horror movie Psycho.

Seriously, alien species of plants can not only diminish our natural ecology, they can degrade property values, destroy infrastructure, and endanger animals and people.

What is an alien species? An invasive alien species is any plant or animal that is not native to the province or a specific region, or is outside its natural range, whose introduction causes – or is likely to cause – economic, social or environmental damage. Some invasive species found in and around Qualicum Beach can cause permanent disfigurement or disability if a person touches them.

Giant Hogweed is the most dangerous invasive plant to humans in the Qualicum Beach area.

Not sure if you’d know an invasive plant if you tripped over one? You’ll have no trouble recognizing these common aliens after watching a short video called Top 5 Invasive Species. Produced by the good folks at Greenways Land Trust and Shaw TV, the video shows where you are likely to find these harmful plants, why they are so damaging, and what to do if you discover an invasive plant infestation.

A sign recently appeared along Highway 19A just west of Little Qualicum River where it enters the estuary leading to the ocean. In bright yellow with bold red lettering, the sign says Attention Invasive Plant – Knotweed Treatment Site – Do Not Disturb. Knotweed chokes out streamside plants that nurture salmon habitat. It is a brute that grows 60 cm a week, and can burst through paved roads with ease. Eradicating knotweed is not a DIY project. All parts of the plant can (and will) produce new plants. The Town of Qualicum Beach has an arrangement with the Invasive Species Council of BC (ISCBC) to treat knotweed infestation.

Giant Hogweed. The name alone seems designed to strike fear in one’s heart, sight unseen. Quite a sight it is, often towering over the heads of tall adults, well over 3-4 meters. A cow parsnip look-alike, Giant Hogweed is the most dangerous invasive plant to humans in the Qualicum Beach area. Local environmentalist Pat Jacobson says that there have been hogweed infestations at Chester Road (Heritage Forest), at Milner Gardens and on the airport side of French Creek, and “there are surely more.” Do not touch it. If touched, this toxic plant causes blistering burns and permanent, disfigurement of a person’s body. Dogs, too, can suffer severe burns if they sniff or touch the plant. If you discover Giant Hogweed, contact the Coastal Invasive Species Committee at 1.844.298.2532 or to report a possible sighting. If confirmed, they will dispatch a SWAT team in full hazmat gear within 24 hours.

Giant Hogweed – do not touch! Photo courtesy of Conservation Halton

Qualicum Beach was once choked with acres and acres of Scotch broom. Now QB is celebrated in the video A Town Almost Broom Free, and identified as the birthplace of Broombusters, an organization devoted to eradicating this invasive plant from Vancouver Island. Thanks to the dedication and years of effort by Broombusters’ founder Joanne Sales and countless other volunteers, Scotch broom is being kept in check here in QB and across the Island. With good reason, locals call Broombusters “the gold standard, a model for community engagement.”

Scotch broom is toxic to animals and the soil, and is a major fire hazard. Although attractive when young, these plants grow quickly and produce towering shrubs of unsightly dry, dead branches loaded with highly flammable oils.

Invasive broom is a very aggressive plant. Vancouver Island’s first European settler planted just three seeds in Sooke in the mid-1800s. It thrived in Metchosin’s sandy, gravel soil and never looked back. Today, Scotch broom runs rampant over much of the Island. A single plant can produce 18,000 seeds that last in the soil for 30-40 years. The distinctive sea of yellow is especially noticeable beside highways and construction sites, or anywhere that fill has been brought in.

Broombusters cautions that broom is a fire hazard, both before and after it is cut. So plans need to be made for cut broom removal BEFORE you cut. Contact Broombusters or your local government for information.

Gardeners are an important ally in the fight against harmful, invasive alien species. Visit ISCBC’s PlantWise program which provides information to help home gardeners reduce the impact of invasive species in their gardens, to make informed plant purchases and to support the horticulture industry’s transition to becoming invasive-free.

If you notice invasive, possibly dangerous, alien plants in your yard or anywhere, who you gonna call?

  • You can call the Invasive Species Council of BC (ISCBC) at 1.888.933.3722
  • Or take a photo and e-mail it to  
  • Or use the mobile app, Report-Invasives-BC to help identify and report a suspected new sighting of an invasive plant species in BC. The app is available free of charge for iPhone, iPad, and Android platforms. Your submission will be sent directly to B. C. specialists on that respective species.
  • Or contact the Coastal ISC’s regional hotline to report plants on Vancouver Island, toll-free 1.844.298.2532 or e-mail