leslie street spit

An invasive weed is killing animals in Toronto and people want it gone for good

Invasive weeds can choke out native plants. Some, like the garlic mustard plant, taste delicious and others, like giant hogweed, can cause painful rashes — but a plant on the Leslie Street Spit right now is actually killing animals.

A patch of non-native invasive plant, burdock, has been growing on the southern end of the Spit (also known as Tommy Thompson Park).

People noticed the plants growing recently and, unfortunately, found dead birds caught in the burdock's burrs, according to a post in Friends of the Spit.

Burdock is "a death trap for Kinglets and Warblers," the post reads. "Time to get rid of all the burdock in the park once and for all!"

Burdock is a biannual plant that grows low to the ground in the first year but in its second year, it shoots up, Andrea Chreston, project manager for Tommy Thompson Park tells blogTO.

"In the second year, it produces seeds, which are burrs. And these burrs are really, really sticky," Chreston says. "Like a really strong Velcro, in fact, Velcro was actually modelled off of burdock."

Right now, tiny songbirds — golden-crowned and ruby-crowned kinglets — are migrating through the area, she adds.

"These birds are super tiny and so they end up getting their feathers get stuck in the burrs. And they're so small that they end up being trapped by the burrs."

Bats can also get trapped in the burrs, she says.

Since burdock in non-native, native species haven't adapted strategies to co-exist with the plant.

Fortunately, shortly after seeing the plants, Toronto Region and Conversation Authority hosted about 30 people who volunteered to cut off the burrs on Oct. 7.

In spring or summer, the Authority plans to put out a call for volunteers again and cut the plants before they mature.

Chreston says there has been burdock in the park in the past and that they have been able to manage it.

Lead photo by

Noam Markus


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