Saturday, August 20, 2016

Chilcotin Holidays

Burdensome Burdock

I have been at Chilcotin Holidays for two weeks and I have already accomplished many personal goals and pursued many interests. I helped build a fence, garden, and roll hay to feed the horses. One of the reasons I am at the ranch is to learn more about the ecology of British Columbia. I have learned new plants while hiking and horseback riding, collected chamomile and yarrow for tea, and seen deer and eagles. The more engaged I am in the surrounding wilderness, the greater my appreciation for nature becomes. More specifically, I really appreciate learning about native and invasive flora of the South Chilcotin Mountains.

One of the projects at the ranch is removing invasive species. Thistle and mullein are growing in masses interrupting the growth of natural plants. Working in pairs, staff have been thoroughly removing these invasive species. In addition to thistle and mullein is the invasive plant, burdock. This plant grows over two meters high and has dark green heart-shaped leaves that grow 70 cm in length. However, don't let the heart-shaped leaves fool you; you will not love them for several reasons.

As the burdock plant grows, the leaves fan over other plants blocking sunlight for their growth. Flowering in July and August, the purple flower looks attractive but is instead quite burdensome. Burs stick to clothes and animal fur and leave prickling sensations in your skin if you happen to come in contact with them. For bio-mimicry enthusiasts, Velcro was invented modeling the burs of the burdock plant. When the plant is standing just a foot high the roots have already extended deep into the ground and physical exertion is required to pull the plant out from the soil. Imagine the tap root of a 2 meter plant!

With work gloves on and a tomahawk in hand I've spent about a total of 16 hours removing invasive plants, including burdock, from the ground. After hitting the base of the plant with the tomahawk blade, the exposed roots are carefully covered in salt to prevent regrowth. I had been removing burdock less than half a meter tall until last Thursday. Instead of weeding thistle as I originally planned, I found myself next to a burdock plant that stood roughly two feet above me. As mosquitoes flew in my face I wrestled with the invasive plant, determined to chop it down. After repeatedly throwing the blade into the ground, stomping and pulling I finally destroyed the burdock. I knew that every plant, both big and small, removed from the earth meant progress for the wilderness and the ranch horses.

As the horses feed throughout the day and into the night they encounter burdock. Unfortunately, the tiny hooks of the burs get tangled in the horses' manes and tails and irritate their eyes. I spent an afternoon removing burdock from the mane and tail of one of our horses. After eating oats, she patiently stood for three hours as I tugged and untangled what I could. With a comb, I removed the bunches of burs balled up in her red mane. Eventually, she was freed from the burdock. I know my work removing the invasive plants can help our horses who enjoy grazing in the forests and fields of Chilcotin. Removing the burs from the horses also prevents the spread of burdock when we take our horses into the South Chilcotin Park. While I am at the ranch, I will continue removing invasive plants and researching other methods of conservation management to become knowledgeable about the ecosystems of British Columbia.

Chilcotin Holidays

About Chilcotin Holidays

We are a licensed guide outfitter and we conduct guided wilderness adventures throughout our 5,000 square km operating area. This guide area has been operational since 1880, making it the oldest in British Columbia. More about us HERE.

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