The recent heat wave in the Bulkley Valley has sent residents flocking to the water to cool off. Anyone who’s found relief at Seymour Lake in Smithers may have noticed a sign warning them about yellow floating heart.
According to Poppy Dubar of the Seymour Lake Conservation Society (SLCS), the Japanese aquatic plant was introduced when a resident used it to decorate their lakefront property in the early 2000s. She said biologist and lake resident Allen Banner first noticed the plant spreading rapidly in 2012.
“[Banner] was using GPS and waypoints to count the different patches and put their location on a map. We’ve got that data, that was a baseline. Every year he’s been checking on that, and it is growing very, very quickly. The conditions are just right. It’s so invasive that it not only disperses by seed from the flowers but … if you cut it, any little piece, or you pull it up, it will disperse all over,” Dubar said.
The SLCS was formed in 2016 in response to the accelerated growth of the plant, and has received grants from the Wetzin’Kwa Community Forest Corporation and Pacific Conservation Assistance Fund to try and control it. For the past two years they have hired summer students to cut the plants around the lakeshore.
“Not only do we want to preserve the quality of the lake, but we also want to promote youth to take an interest and care, and have a meaningful summer job,” she said.
Students Reinhard Jonker and Jack DeRooy have been at it since late June.
“It’s extremely vigorous, it just comes back right away,” Jonker said.
“I feel like it would definitely be spreading a lot more quickly if we hadn’t been cutting it down, but we’re obviously not really killing it. We need to wait for the dredger to come in and do that,” said DeRooy.
“[Allen Banner] notified the Invasive Plant Council of Northern B.C., and there’s a woman [Denise McLean] there who works for them through the [Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, & Rural Development] … what she did was, in the spring, came with a drone and took pictures of the growth around the lake, and get a baseline from this year.
“What their plans are, with the ministry, is to come with this vacuum dredger, and it’s going to pull up all the weeds and kind of vacuum the bottom of the lake. It will take the natural weeds as well, but it’s our only hope of saving the lake,” said Dubar.
She said at its peak yellow floating heart is so thick “you can almost walk on it,” and it blocks out the sunlight, oxygen, and nutrients native flora and fauna need to survive.
“It’s apparently very bad for the waterfowl and even some species of plants here … it really drowns [the lily pads] out, as well as horsetail,” said Jonker.
“I think it’s good that people are starting to be more aware of it,” noted DeRooy. “The more people that know about the weeds probably the better.”