Volunteers remove invasive vine from Manor Park Public School grounds

By Eugenie Waters

Manor Park volunteers remove invasive dog-strangling vine from Manor Park Public School grounds.

On a warm summer night at the end of July, multiple volunteers including families with young children from Manor Park and surrounding communities met to get their hands dirty and protect biodiversity on the grounds of Manor Park Public School.

I had learned about invasive dog-strangling vine from the social media posts of the Ottawa Eco-Action Network (OSEAN), a group that had arranged a series of in-person workshops on how to identify and remove various invasive species earlier in the spring.

Although I hadn’t attended any of their events, their posts had taught me enough that I spotted a patch of dog-strangling vine (DSV) taking over the long cedar hedge in front of the school one day this summer. With the school’s permission and together with members of the MPCA’s Environmental Sustainability Committee, For Our Kids Ottawa-Gatineau, OSEAN and local invasive species expert Iola Price, we organized an event to raise awareness and remove invasive DSV together.

Choking out species

DSV harms ecosystems because it grows into thick mats that choke out native plant species in wooded areas and greenspaces. It also negatively affects wildlife including birds and insects by altering their habitats.

Monarch butterflies are impacted because they mistakenly lay their eggs on DSV instead of their true host plants, the native milkweeds. The monarch larvae then starve since DSV does not provide the nutrients they need to grow.

The monarch butterfly was added to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature red list as an endangered species just days before our event.

As the evening started, the children enjoyed meeting special guests Katie and Kyle – two monarch caterpillars! Once we’d all learned about how to identify and remove DSV and some of its major impacts on biodiversity, everyone joyfully got to work. People enjoyed chatting and taking action together. Participants all went home with a feeling of accomplishment–and a few native milkweed seedlings to plant wherever they wished!

Eugenie Waters is the chair of the MPCA Environmental Sustainability Committee.

Invasive dog-strangling vine grow in sunny areas and produce bean-shaped pods 4 to 7 centimetres long. Although actually harmless to dogs, as the vines grow, they wrap themselves around small plants and trees, “strangling” them. Photo: Eugenie Waters