Summerland council spoke about an invasive plants species that got farmers worried about their horses

Toxic plants invading

Casey Richardson

A species of plants known to be deadly to horses if consumed is showing up around farms and rural properties in Summerland and throughout the Okanagan. 

Councillor Martin Van Alphen spoke about the issues to council on Monday, after a farmer in his area brought it to his attention.

“Because of the concern brought to my attention by some of the horse owners, horse boarders here in Summerland (say) this is an invasive species quite deadly to horses.”  

Hoary alyssum can be recognized by the small white petals and below the flowering parts, oval pods below contain the seed and the colour of the leaves near the bottom look grey-green.

“Those key features are those white flowers and the oval shaped pods.” Lisa Scott the executive director of OKanagan And Similkameen Invasive Species Society (OASISS). 

Scott notes that small patches can be hand pulled out to help get rid of the plant, deposited in garbage bags and brought to the landfill. Mowing can be an option in early stages of growth, but once the seed pods start to show, that's when the mowers just end up spreading more of the plants. 

Areas across the Okanagan-Similkameen region have seen a gradual increase of the plant, with OASIS working with their partners to tackle it. 

“If people are seeing this plant on their property they should be noting where it is, especially if they have large acreages and making a plan for not just this year, but future years. Invasive plants like hoary alyssum don’t go away overnight, it takes a well planned approach over many years,” Scott said.  

The main concern is when the hoary alyssum continues to spread into hay fields. 

“If horses are to consume a significant amount of this plant, whether it's in a pastures or if the hoary alyssum gets cut as hay… it can be toxic.” 

Van Alphen wants the rural community to be aware of the invasive species.

“It’s here and we need to learn more about it,” Van Alphen said. “If we all do our part, maybe we can get rid of it before it becomes a major problem in our pastures and hay fields.” 

Anyone looking for more information can find reach out to the OASISS crew on their website.  

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