Volunteers at work in 2018 pulling out blackberries in the West Creek Wetlands. A war against invasive blackberries in north east Langley is now in it’s sixth year (File)

Volunteers at work in 2018 pulling out blackberries in the West Creek Wetlands. A war against invasive blackberries in north east Langley is now in it’s sixth year (File)

A six-year war: battle against blackberries in Langley

Volunteers tackle invasive plants

On Tuesday morning, Nov. 3, Lisa Dreves at the Langley Environmental Partners Society (LEPS) was sorting through heavy-duty leather gloves for volunteers, getting ready to renew hostilities with a stubborn invader that has engulfed tracts of land in northeast Langley.

It is the sixth year of the fight by the Glen Valley Watersheds Society (GVWS) against invasive blackberry bushes, a hand-on war that requires protection from the sharp thorns that adorn the unwelcome visitors.

Dreves, the stewardship coordinator at LEPS, will be leading the charge every two weeks on Tuesdays until December 15, 2020, escorting small groups of volunteers to the 163-acre West Creek Wetlands near 72nd Avenue and 264th Street to spend a few hours from 10 a.m. to noon tearing out the fast-growing bushes.

It’s been a drawn-out battle but progress is being made, Dreves said.

“You can see the difference it makes.”

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Battling invasive blackberries in Langley

While it’s hard, sometimes damp work, it easily meets COVID-19 safety requirements, she noted.

“It’s a big space with plenty of room to spread out, Dreves said.

This year, a new front has been opened up in the blackberry battle, a recently-acquired Township property near Nathan Creek at 80th Avenue and 272 Street, the Gatzen homestead.

Volunteers will be heading there every other Monday from 10 a.m. to noon to free up fruit trees from the unwelcome embrace of the fast-growing blackberries.

READ ALSO: Bertrand Creek Enhancement Society looking for new members to help protect Aldergrove waterway

The Himalayan blackberry is a stubborn, fast-growing Eurasian biennial plant that was introduced to Canada in the mid 1880s. It was valued for its fruit, larger and sweeter than other varieties, but it soon escaped into the wild, where it quickly got out of control, with birds and other animals eating the fruit and then spreading the seeds.

Currently seen in the Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast, Fraser Valley, Gulf Islands, central to southern Vancouver Island, Queen Charlotte Islands, the Okanagan, and the West Kootenay areas, the plants displace native varieties and can create erosion and flood risks by overthrowing deep-rooted plants.

One blackberry can contain up to 80 seeds.

The Langley campaign is operating under COVID-19 rules of engagement, where participants will be required to provide a full name and phone number in case contact tracing is required.

Sanitized tools and clean gloves will be provided, but people are free to bring their own own gear, however no power tools are allowed.

To join the battle, contact Dreves at stewardship@leps.bc.ca for dates and to RSVP for events.

You can also join up by going to meetup.com and search for the “Blackberry Bash.”


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