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Cape Breton invaded by colonies of tall, bamboo-like plants


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SYDNEY, N.S. - Cape Breton is being invaded - and not just by summer tourists.
Colonies of elephant ears, a tall, bamboo-like ornamental garden plant, are choking out native plant species and threatening to take over roadsides and riverbeds.
The non-native plant is believed to have started spreading throughout the region after people planted it in their gardens.
But Parks Canada is helping landowners fight back, with a series of how-to seminars to help chop down this green monster.
"My phone has been ringing off the hook with landowners who have been trying (for) years to get this plant out of their backyard and they haven't been able to figure out how to do it," said Lyn Elliott, a Canada Parks spokeswoman who specializes in ecological integrity communications.
"So we are trying to help out residents . . . to learn the different methods and techniques of eradicating elephant ears."
Also known as Japanese knotweed, Japanese bamboo, Polygonum cuspidatum, and Fallopia japonica, the plant has large heart-shaped leaves and tiny white flowers, Elliott said.
It's is considered invasive due to its ability to spread easily and crowd out native plants with its large leaves and rapid growth, Elliott said.
One of the reasons so many people are having such a hard time ridding their yards of this pest is because they must be very careful about the disposal of plants they dig up or chop down.
"Just a small piece of stem or root can start a whole new colony," Elliott said. "You can't just cut it and compost it. You have to cut it and bag it until the plant is dead, and then you might be able to burn it or compost it."
The dangers of this pesky plant extend far beyond the backyard garden patch.
"We're particularly concerned about it in the park . . . because it's also started getting into the riverbanks," Elliott said, referring to Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
Elephant ears "shades out that natural vegetation that's really good at holding the soil," she said.
This dreaded plant isn't "as good at stabilizing the riverbank and when we get heavy rains, especially like we've had this past week, a lot of that bank starts to fall into the river. There's a high sediment load, so it makes it tough for the fish and the aquatic insects that are living in that river to survive."

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