Daphne is a pest. The innocent-sounding alternative name for Spurge Laurel (Daphne laureola) fails to soften my heart as I face this scene, an area of forest floor crowded with what is an invasive plant in Vancouver Island, a “noxious weed”.
These Daphne plants have become established in Francis/King Regional Park, on the north-west edge of Victoria, British Columbia. However the invasion includes almost all parks in the south of Vancouver Island, and many more informal green spaces. In my role as volunteer Park Steward for Francis/King I have been attacking Daphne for a while, beginning, embarrassingly, right beside the park entrance (which also features other all-too-familiar invasives such as Scotch Broom, English Ivy and Himalayan Blackberry).
Despite Daphne being toxic, which means avoiding skin contact, getting rid of it is actually a satisfying exercise. After a few hours you can see a big difference. I’m trying to eradicate Daphne completely from a sloping area from where it has been easy to spread seeds in the past. Of course it is impossible to target 100 per cent in an initial push, but the small plants that I miss will be readily identifiable next year. The main challenge is to remove as many plants as possible before they flower and produce the berries that enable their spread.
My preferred method is to simply tug the plant out of the ground, to ensure that as much of the root structure is removed to prevent regrowth. I also use a mattock, digging as shallowly as possible, to lever out the biggest plants. Both these approaches result in some soil disturbance, which is unfortunate, but the prevention of regrowth is important, and in my opinion the long-term benefits outweigh any minor soil damage. It is frustrating to be removing plants that have grown again after merely being chopped off a few cm above ground level. This is not an activity that is suitable for people with bad backs!
While this is mostly a solo activity, CRD Parks organises volunteer habitat restoration sessions in many of its parks, and they include Francis/King. It’s gratifying to see how much work can be achieved by a small group of enthusiastic volunteers.