Just keep diggin….

Stanley Park Ecology Society’s EcoStewards is a fun, free, volunteer-led event which happens every second and fourth Saturday of the month. The group aims to remove invasive species in Stanley Park which are posing a threat to the Park’s native ecosystems.

This week saw around twenty volunteers in high-vis vests, shovels in hand, eager to dig out the invasive Himalayan blackberry bushes and the yellow flag irises.

An EcoStewards group gets instructions about blackberry removal at Lost Lagoon. (Photo: Jess Causby/SPES)

Blackberry thrives in open spots such as the south shore of Lost Lagoon (where the team has been working for the past few months) and quickly reduces a site to a monoculture with only one plant species present. When a plant like this takes over, it dramatically reduces the biodiversity in the area; there are fewer insects and birds which can live there. This affects the whole ecosystem.

The work that EcoStewards are doing is vital to the conservation of native plants such as salmonberry, thimbleberry and many others. As these plants are dormant in the winter, they benefit from a little help from the volunteers: the blackberry grows year-round so it has a big advantage and can outcompete the native species for space, sunlight and nutrients.

Volunteers remove a log to dig out invasive blackberry roots. (Photo: Jess Causby/SPES)

“If there was nothing done about it, then blackberry would quickly take over the area. What is left of the salmonberry we see right now, would definitely disappear,” explains Jeannine Johnstone, Stewardship Coordinator at Stanley Park Ecology Society (SPES).

A pile of removed blackberry vines and roots awaits disposal by the Park Board. (Photo: Jess Causby/SPES)


EcoStewards was originally started back in 2012 under the name ‘Ivy Busters’. Their main goal was to cut English ivy out of trees, as the ivy starts to produce berries when growing up the trees. The berries are then eaten by birds who poop them out across the Park or even in different locations. This leads to the invasive species (ivy) being spread around the Park and threatening the native plants.

Ivy Busters switched their name over to EcoStewards to tackle not just ivy but all the invasive plants in Stanley Park of which there are over 90 species! EcoStewards also help with habitat restoration and planting depending on the time of year.  

A huge pile of invasive yellow flag iris was removed on Saturday, March 9 from Lost Lagoon’s south shore. Good job team! (Photo: Jess Causby/SPES)


Cathy Bock, who has been a volunteer for around four years, co-leads the invasive species removal team with two others. “It’s good for my soul,” she explains. “Not only do I like the work I’m doing for Stanley Park because I want the natural forest to flourish, but I also like the exercise.”

Phil Virgadamo and Kathy Bock co-led the EcoStewards event on March 9, providing instruction on invasives removal and plant ID. (Photo: Jess Causby/SPES)

“I heard about the programme and I thought it is something that I can really get into and get my hands dirty”, says Alex Brennan, a first time volunteer for EcoStewards. “I really enjoy the hard work, everyone is really friendly and they have great cookies at the break.”

Alex, an EcoStewards volunteer, works hard for his cookies! (Photo: Jess Causby/SPES)

Earth Day

For this year’s Earth Day, April 22nd, SPES will be celebrating with a public planting event on Saturday, April 27.  As the blackberry has overrun specific sites for so long, SPES is looking for volunteers to help restore the native habitat through planting.

The event is from noon to 4:00 p.m. at the Stanley Park Nature House and there will be other planting and restoration events around Lost Lagoon that day.

For more SPES Earth Day celebration details, check: http://stanleyparkecology.ca/event/spes-earth-day-celebration/ . If you are keen to join our weekend EcoStewards events, email Tobias, the SPES Volunteer Coordinator, at vols@stanleyparkecology.ca .

By Jess Causby, Communications Volunteer

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