Invasive Species in Holiday Crafts

Samuel Jean, Conservation and Education Assistant at Acadia University

Nothing beats the smell of freshly cut balsam fir (Abies balsamea) and eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) branches. These two abundant conifers are native to Nova Scotia and are often synonyms of the festive season.

Following the first snow that we just received, many people will start preparing for the holidays by getting Christmas trees and crafting wreaths from natural material harvested in the wild. Wreaths are often made using conifer cones and cheerful-looking berries. While red pine (Pinus resinosa) cones, Virginia rose (Rosa virginiana) hips, highbush cranberry (Viburnum opulus), and common winterberry (Ilex verticillata) fruit are great additions to any wreath, using multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) and oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) fruit should be avoided. Both are invasive species: they are not native to our region and compete with native plants while degrading wildlife habitat. Multiflora rose is present in several counties across the province and is known for creating impenetrable thorny thickets. Oriental bittersweet is a large vining plant that can weaken, deform, and even strangle trees. So far, it has as only been recorded in the Annapolis Valley according to the Nova Scotia Invasive Species Council.

Acadia University students had the opportunity to learn about these invasive plants during the Race to Meet Your Wild Neighbours event that took place in the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens and the Acadia Woodland Trails last month. Through various stations and challenges dispersed throughout the Gardens and Trails, participants also learned about Norway maple (Acer platanoides), Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus), privet (Ligustrum spp.), and common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica). Invasive plant species posters were installed on the Woodland Trails for this event designed by students from the Community Program Design course (CODE 3023). The posters will remain in place for a few more weeks. Be on the lookout for them if you hike the Woodland Trails! More details and pictures of the event can be found in the News & Events section of the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre website under “Students learning about native and invasive plants.”

During these trying times, we hope that 2021 was a year of growth for you and your loved ones and everyone at the Gardens and the Centre is wishing you a great holiday season and a happy new year!

Images courtesy of Samuel Jean:
a. Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora)
b. Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)