Look out for this growing invasive plant species on P.E.I.

A new invasive plant species is quickly spreading throughout P.E.I., and one retired biologist is warning Islanders to take care if trying to handle it.

Woodland angelica is quickly spreading across the Island, choking out other plants

Woodland angelica is an invasive plant species that Rosemary Curley, a retired biologist and volunteer with the PEI Invasive Species Council, says is quickly spreading throughout the province. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

A new invasive plant species is quickly spreading throughout P.E.I., and one retired biologist is warning Islanders to take care if trying to handle it.

Rosemary Curley, a retired biologist and volunteer with the PEI Invasive Species Council, said woodland angelica arrived on the province about 20 years ago but has recently been spreading across the Island.

"It displaces other plants and it can take over large areas," Curley said. 

"This one tends to spread rapidly and form large clumps and become something we don't want."

The flat topped white flower grows to about five feet high, and resembles the look of wild carrots which are more commonly known as Queen Anne's lace. It can cause an allergic reaction in humans through it's sap, and can lead to itching and redness.

Spreading throughout P.E.I.

According to Curley, woodland angelica is native to Europe but can be found throughout the Maritimes.

Though she's unsure of how it arrived on P.E.I., Curley said there's an abundance of the plant in New Brunswick, and it likely got transported from there through motor vehicles. 

According to Curley, angelica looks a lot like wild carrot, or Queen Anne's lace, making it difficult to spot. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

"It is spreading so I think we'll see a lot more of it. I think it will become a very common roadside plant, especially in ditches," she said.

Curley said it spreads through its roots and moves through waterways. Seeds can also be transported by machinery like snow plows or farming equipment. 

So far, the plant is predominantly found in Kings County, but Curley said it's spreading toward Queens County.

Get used to it

While woodland angelica can displace other plants, Curley advises to be careful if handling the plant.

"I think it would be a good idea to avoid it ... because there are some other look-alikes like hemlock, which is a poisonous plant," she said.

Woodland angelica grows to about five feet tall, and spreads through seeds and its root system. Curley says people should try and avoid touching it, because it closely resembles poisonous hemlock. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

"They're all hard to tell apart, the plants in this family, so definitely don't rely on guesswork. Rely on absolutely knowing."

Curley said if you do start to notice the plant growing on your lawn and want to remove it, protect your skin, cut it down as soon as possible before it seeds and take out the roots. 

But she adds that getting rid of it might not be easy.

"I think people will just have to get used to it quite frankly because I think it will spread."

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