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Bucks for Bellflowers: Calgary man offers cash for bagging invasive plant

A Calgary man is offering a cash reward to neighbours who dig up a bag full of Creeping Bellflower.

Simon Wilson, who lives in West Hillhurst, is paying $5 per garbage bag of the invasive plant, which is overrunning lawns and gardens in the community.

"I started seeing it in my lawn and in our front planter boxes," he said.

"You pick it before it flowers, like you're trying to do the best you can, and then, two months later, the next year, you're like, 'It's on the other side of the lawn now.'

"I found myself becoming more frustrated. Walking around the community, it's everywhere. I thought instead of being powerless to its spread, let's do something as a community."

Wilson has set aside $1,000 to pay West Hillhurst residents for their work, and says he's had two people cash in so far.

"If you show me a picture of a regular household garbage bag, I'll put five bucks in your mailbox."

Wilson says the first two people to take him up on the offer told him to donate the money to the food bank instead of paying them.

Creeping Bellflower has sprouted throughout Calgary, but has yet to flower and seed.Creeping Bellflower, a noxious weed, is seen in a Calgary yard.

Once that happens, each stem of the plant can produce up to 15,000 seeds. 

Even getting rid of it before it seeds is difficult, because of the way it spreads. 

The Alberta Invasive Species Council website lists Creeping Bellflower as a noxious weed, and says on a fact sheet that digging out as much of the roots system as possible can be successful, but will require "several years’ effort."

"Hand-pulling or cutting and bagging flower spikes pre-bloom can be an option for preventing seed production. However, the plant will re-sprout from its creeping root system."

Adding to the problem is the fact that Creepping Bellflower is a pretty plant when it blooms, and many people do not recognize it as a weed until it’s too late.

Creeping Bellflower is pretty but noxious.The City of Calgary warns that Creeping Bellflower seeds are sometimes even found in wildflower mixes, and says gardeners should check the labels to ensure that those containing the Campanula species do not contain C. rapunculoides.

The city also says you should never place Creeping Bellflower parts in your green compost bin. 

Instead, they should be bagged and disposed of in the black garbage bin, so they do not contaminate the city’s composting program.

Wilson says he knows his bounty won’t solve the city-wide spread of Creeping Bellflower, but hopes it will engage his inner-city community to expunge the invading plants.