Thursday, July 11, 2013

We need YOU to come and save some trees!

It is vital for a city to have sufficient tree coverage for healthy air, water, wildlife, and people. That’s why Gwen Petreman of Living Green pioneered the Urban Canopy Coalition to gather money and volunteers to plant new trees. Just this past April, 1000 new trees were planted along the Huronia Buffer in partnership with the Lake Simcoe Regional Conservation Authority (LSRCA) and the City of Barrie.
However, a new and insidious threat to these trees has arrived: dog-strangling vine (DSV)! Although not actually a threat to dogs, this invasive species is a serious threat to trees, climbing up and around them, effectively strangling them, especially young saplings. It also changes the acidity of the soil, and can take over a whole ecosystem, crowding out all native plants. It even harms our beautiful but threatened monarch butterfly, because it looks like the milkweed they lay eggs on, but doesn’t nourish their larvae, which then starve.
This weed is hard to eradicate. June’s growth of seed pods scatter fluffy white seeds in late August, so we’re now in the narrow window when we can remove the weeds and their seeds before they spread.
Sadly, DSV also spreads rhizomatously, meaning it can re-grow from root fragments left in the soil. So in addition to removing seed pods, we have to dig out the weeds, getting as much of the root as possible. This is easiest in the infestation’s early stages, before the plants get heavy, lie over, and create a tangled mass of vines. If don’t stop it now, within 10 years it will spread to kill 1000 new trees and all the other native plants in the area, replacing them with an alien monoculture.
A tree-rescue event is being set up for this Sunday morning, 9 – noon, to try and eradicate the DSV from our new plantings before it’s too late. Barrie Chiropractic helped fund the planting and will be out in force but we need you, too! Volunteers will meet at Assikinack Public School, 226 Little Ave. at McConkey Place at 8:45 and walk back to the field. This most certainly counts toward the 40 community involvement hours students need, so don’t miss out!
Dress for the weather (probably sunny) but wear long sleeves & pants with proper shoes or boots (no sandals), because the vine can irritate the skin, and there may also be poison ivy in the area. And of course, bring gardening gloves if you have them.
Tools will be provided by LSRCA, but feel free to bring your own sharp spade, shrub clippers, or even scythe. You’ll also want bug spray and water to keep hydrated, plus optimism and a willingness to get the job done!
Together we’ll be digging out the vines at the root, or where that’s impossible, cutting the stems at ground level, and making sure all plant parts (especially seed pods) are bagged for disposal.
For further info, contact Jean Wilson at or call 705-725-9359 or 705-220-6728. To learn more about DSV you can visit
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner under the title Volunteers are needed for tree-rescue event.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation


  1. Great event Erich! I wish I could come and help. I hope to maybe organize a re-greening event in Sudbury at some point in the coming year, along similar lines. Doing something to make things better and not just talking about it!

    Good luck with your event! - Simon

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