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A wolf in sheep’s clothing

Noxious Weeds: Baby's breath

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Many people think of baby’s breath as a cute, delicate filler flower found in rose bouquets. The real plant found in the Prairies couldn’t be further from this image.

This weed has a taproot that can reach the astonishing depth of four metres, and it can grow as wide as 41 centimetres in circumference. And the multiple tiny white flowers on this noxious weed can produce 10,000 seeds per plant, and allow it to push out native flora and take over the landscape.

During times of drought, such as the one we have just experienced, baby’s breath is able to thrive by accessing water much deeper than most native plants. This can lower the water table to a point that it is inaccessible to native plants desperate for moisture, thereby killing them off and leaving more room for this invasive plant.

Baby’s breath can be identified by it bluish-green colouring and opposite lance-shaped leaves. In the fall, its stalks will turn into a tumbleweed and spread the seeds across the landscape.

Brought over with the settlers in the 1800s, it escaped people’s gardens and has been infesting the landscape ever since. Many infestations can be traced back to graveyards where people left flower bouquets for loved ones. (Any floral arrangements should be disposed of properly in landfill-bound garbage where the seeds will be buried in anaerobic conditions and decompose.)

For more information on this or any invasive plant, contact your local Agricultural Fieldman or the Alberta Invasive Species Council.

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