Italian arum is an invasive and toxic plant that has recently found its way into Victoria. (The Gardens at HCP/Facebook)

Italian arum is an invasive and toxic plant that has recently found its way into Victoria. (The Gardens at HCP/Facebook)

Toxic plant spreading from US to Greater Victoria, horticulture non-profit warns

Italian arum known to overtake habitats, cause serious skin irritation

A horticulture non-profit is asking Greater Victoria residents to keep their eyes out for leafy green ground cover and clusters of red-orange berries.

Originally introduced to North America from Europe for ornamental purposes, Italian arum (arum italicum) may look pretty, but it can have disastrous impacts, warned the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific.

The weed is considered both invasive and toxic.

It’s capable of spreading through both its seeds and tubers. Once it’s arrived in a place, it quickly forms a dense ground cover, blocking out sunlight for any other lower-lying plants.

For humans and wildlife, ingestion of Italian arum can cause sickness, while contact can cause serious skin irritation.

READ ALSO: Invasive English holly poses threat to Island’s eco-system

It’s a well-known invasive plant in much of the U.S. west coast, but only more recently has been documented spreading elsewhere in North America. Often, that movement occurs from birds ingesting the Italian arum’s seeds, flying elsewhere, and depositing them through their droppings.

The Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, which is located in Saanich, said the weed is often seen spreading in yard debris and contaminated compost. If found, residents are asked to do their best to remove it.

By hand, Italian arum needs to be dug up in its entirety, including bulbs and tubers, placed in a bag, and disposed of as landfilled waste (not composted). Herbicides are also an option, although they don’t always reach the tubers.

More information on invasive species in Greater Victoria can be found on the Capital Regional District’s website, crd.bc.ca.

READ ALSO: Spread of invasive species in Canada costs billions, changes environment


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