Expanding efforts to control invasive weeds and increase Sandy Hill’s native plant biodiversity

Marilyn Whitaker

In February, the University of Ottawa Community Engagement Team announced that the Sandy Hill Riparian Forest Biodiversity Project was selected for a grant from the TD Environmental Leaders Program. This project will involve uOttawa students and expand on the work started last year by Sandy Hill volunteers to control the spread of Japanese knotweed in areas along the Rideau River.

As reported last year in IMAGE, some Sandy Hill residents were concerned about the spread of invasive plants along banks of the Rideau River, in nearby parks, and other areas. Plants like Japanese knotweed and common buckthorn can out-compete native plants for resources such as light, moisture, and soil nutrients. They can create thick stands and affect wildlife species that are adapted to native plant communities and lessen people’s enjoyment of an outdoor space.

Last summer and fall, Sandy Hill volunteers, with City support, dug out or cutback knotweed plants along the Rideau River path between Strathcona Park and the entry to Robinson Village. They covered these areas with tarpaulins and mulch to suppress regrowth. Although City Forestry promised to replant these areas with native trees and shrubs, this is now expected in the fall of 2022 or 2023.

The Sandy Hill Riparian Forest Biodiversity Project will expand efforts to enrich biodiversity and enhance resilience by planting native species in key locations along the riverbank and adjacent upland areas in Sandy Hill. Starting in May 2022, student volunteers will work with Sandy Hill residents to monitor and clear more invasive plants. Adjacent to the tarped areas, a diverse selection of native trees, shrubs, and perennials suited to the local conditions will be planted to create shaded areas where knotweed and other invasive plants are less likely to thrive.

Students will prepare information material for Sandy Hill residents wanting to remove invasive plants from their own properties. The project thus aims to enhance the environmental experience of the students and Sandy Hill residents alike.

Funding from the TD Environmental Leaders Program enables orders to be placed for native trees, shrubs, and perennials suited to the site conditions. People with sunny windows or grow lights interested in growing additional native perennials can get seeds and trays by contacting sandyhilltreegroup@gmail.com. Classrooms and seniors’ residences are welcome to get involved and make it a community effort.

Please check the Action Sandy Hill newsletter and future issues of IMAGE for updates.