After a three-year funding campaign led by ThINC, in partnership with Islands Trust Conservancy (ITC) and Cowichan Community Land Trust (CCLT), Fairyslipper Forest was acquired in 2018 and became the first and only publicly accessible nature reserve on Thetis Island. Thanks to the generosity of the community, this acquisition was made possible, and today the space offers residents and visitors opportunities for walking, birdwatching, nature exploration, and photography. It also protects a maturing stand of Coastal Douglas-fir forest that is home to the highest diversity of plant species in British Columbia. But, invasive species are moving in….
Identified by its thick and glossy, dark-green, spiny leaves and red berries, holly (Ilex aquifolium) is considered one of the primary invasive plant species on Thetis Island. Holly has deep, aggressive roots and can tolerate sun and shade, as well as different soil types making it a serious problem for native species and can suppress the natural regeneration of forest trees over time. In response, ThINC is organizing a holly removal party next weekend: Saturday, March 11th and Sunday, March 12th between 10am - 2pm.
To help protect Fairyslipper Forest from the creep of holly, join us for one or both days, or even a couple hours. The more help we get, the more we can pull! We will be meeting at the Fairyslipper parking lot at 10 am both days. Bring gloves, pruning or pulling contraptions (broom pullers work wonders on these feisty plants!), and a lunch if you intend to stay the duration.
If you plan on coming, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Update - March 21, 2023
A big thanks to everyone who came out to the holly removal party on March 11th and 12th. A group of 19 community members clipped, pulled, and piled an estimated total of 20 cubic metres (or 3 VM Bettles). Also, thanks to those who lent their tools, and to Greg Gall (and Woody the wood chipper) who helped us make short work of those holly heaps.
If you'd like to tackle holly in your backyard, Metro Vancouver and the Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver produced this thorough resource on the best practices of holly removal and disposal. As it's a lengthy document, here are some of the key takeaway messages and tips for dealing with holly:
Holly is a highly competitive plant, tolerating a variety of soil and moisture conditions, and is spread easily by birds
It is a water and nutrient hog and creates heavy shade under its canopy suppressing the growth of native plants
Its berries are toxic to humans and its leaves are highly flammable
Holly spreads by its roots and its seeds
Prevention is the most economical and effective way to reduce the spread of holly over the long term
Pulling or digging is the most effective control method for dealing with small-medium sized plants (up to 10 cm in diametre)
Girdling is the best approach when dealing with larger plants, but should be done by a professional
Cutting is another option but will usually result in re-sprouting. Monitoring and repeated follow-up cutting of any re-growth may suppress the plant over time but will not likely kill it.
It is best to remove holly before berries form and mature
Due to the risk of suckering and rooting, it is best practice to remove as much of the holly roots and stems as possible
Holly biomass without berries can be chipped
Holly berries should not be composted as the temperatures might not be hot enough to kill off the seeds
Happy holly pullin'!