Giant hogweed control efforts ­ongoing in Racine

By Gordon Lambie
Giant hogweed control efforts ­ongoing in Racine
Because of its noxious sap, the teams working to uproot and destroy the giant hogweed must be dressed in protective clothing, making the work in a heatwave a challenge. (Photo : Gordon Lambie)

A large-scale uprooting operation is currently underway along the shores of Benda Creek in the Val-Saint Francois MRC, in what is considered the largest infestation of giant hogweed in Quebec.
“We know where it begins, but we do not know where it ends,” said Nicolas Trottier, President of Quadra Environment, the firm that has been hired to help control the invasive species, explaining that the infestation covers more than 28 kilometres through the municipalities of Racine, Maricourt, Valcourt Township and Valcourt. “It is a very effective invader,” he added, explaining that a single mature plant can produce as many as 20,000 seeds, which, if located alongside a river, can float many kilometres and remain viable for up to seven years.
“If it was just an invasive plant, that would be problem enough, but hogweed sap is extremely toxic as well,” the Quadra Environment president said, sharing that although the current effort is focused on finding, uprooting, and destroying all of the mature, flowering plants, the shorelines are littered with thousands of plants that will mature in the coming years, keeping the shoreline a dangerous area for some time.
Trottier pointed out that giant hogweed sap, although innocuous on initial contact, causes a light-sensitive reaction in the 24 to 48 hours afterwards that can result in terrible burns and hospitalization. Also, the plant is relatively subtle in appearance until the final weeks of its life when it shoots up to six feet in height and flowers.
“We will try to control it, but we will not be able to eradicate it,” said Racine Mayor Christian Massé, highlighting the fact that the four local municipalities have already been working with Quadra Environment and the Conseil regional de l’environnement since 2016 to try to limit the spread of the invader. To date he estimated the cost of the operation at upwards of $200,000 and strongly counselled other rural municipalities to try to identify and control infestations early, before they get out of control.
“These are big plants that are dangerous,” he said, noting that there are areas along the local stream where nothing can be seen but giant hogweed.

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