Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The American Invader! Spraying the Skunk Cabbage on The Island at Elterwater.

American Skunk Cabbage becoming increasingly dominant.
Another stand of Skunk Cabbage on the island.
The invasive American skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) at Elterwater,  particularly  on  the   island, has  become   ever    more widespread.

In spite of the efforts of two of the Central and East Lakes Rangers last year, it is still spreading, and threatening to overwhelm the reed beds and native plants in this SSSI designated area.

Digging out the smaller cabbages and destroying the seed pods of older specimens is not sufficient to control the spread of skunk cabbage. (see Blog on..... Elterwater's Biodiversity under Threat?)

A canoe, kindly lent by James Archer..Area Ranger based at St. Catherine's, was the ideal means to transport the chemicals and equipment to the island.

Spraying the skunk cabbage is probably the only realistic means of getting the situation under some control.

Jen Aldous from South Cumbria's Rivers Trust, and three Central and East Lakes Rangers combined forces to deal with the skunk cabbage.

For once the weather was good, and the job could go ahead.
Jen, busy mixing and measuring the chemicals to be used in the sprayers. James is assembling a sprayer in the background.

A close up of the spray in action.
James taking on a skunk cabbage. Many fallen trees and low branches made access very difficult, especially wearing bulky, heavy back pack sprayers.
Jen in the midst of a fairly big stand of skunk cabbage.
Had to include an image of Godzilla! from last year. The size 10 chain saw boot looks tiny and indicates just how large this skunk cabbage is.

With Thanks to Jen Aldous, Invasive Non Native Species Officer...South Cumbria Rivers Trust..., for all her invaluable help in tackling the major infestation of skunk cabbage at Elterwater. Please see link to South Cumbria Rivers Trust web page.

American Skunk Cabbage is still a popular garden plant. Unfortunately it readily escapes into the countryside causing major harm to eco systems especially in the vicinity of rivers and lakes.

Elterwater is just one of the fragile eco systems in the UK being adversely affected by the rapid spread of this plant.                       

UPDATE 1. Skunk Cabbage, 2 weeks after spraying.
UPDATE 2. An American Skunk Cabbage looking very much the worse for wear.
5 weeks after spraying. June 21st 2013.
It looks like the spraying has been a success. Note how bare the ground is around the Skunk Cabbages; They displace Native plants with ease.




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  3. Good Day, from North Vancouver Island, BC, Canada!
    I was googling to ID a wildflower and came across you website.
    On the West Coast we have many immigrant plants, but I'd never known that there is a converse challenge with plants from here invading your wild lands. Skunk cabbage is an indigenious plant, to this area, and was traditionally used by the Aboriginal peoples. The leaves were used to line food baskets and to store a mixed berry compote. The brilliant yellow, of the flower, is one of our natural signs of Spring.
    I wonder if the chemicals used to irradicate this plant are considered safe for the water table in the areas where it grows. I also wonder how the heck Skunk Cabbage came to be in your area?
    Jan in Alert Bay, BC, Canada (Cormorant Island)

  4. Thanks for your comments and your interesting information.
    The chemical used to spray skunk cabbage is called Round Up "Pro Biactive". It is approved for use near water but with strict regulations. The concentration levels must be adhered to, and only to be used by fully trained and qualified operatives.
    In addition a licence to spray must be obtained from "The Environment Agency".
    Skunk Cabbage is sometimes referred to as a Garden Escapee. It is a popular garden plant in the UK. (Garden Centres are legally allowed to sell it).The seeds easily find their way into water courses and out into the countryside. All too often the spread of skunk cabbage is rapid.
    Other invasive plants in this area include Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam, and Giant Hogweed.
    Roland, Countryside Ranger, Central and East Lakes.