Creeping bellflower was spotted this week at the base of the sign outside city hall that declares Red Deer a nuclear weapon free zone. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Keep your eye open for creeping bellflower

Noxious weed spreads in Red Deer

Creeping bellflower is taking root in the city, but Red Deer is fighting back against the noxious weed.

More of the pretty, purple perennial has been spotted around the city this summer, including at the base of the sign outside city hall declaring Red Deer a nuclear weapon free zone.

Ken Lehman, ecological services operations co-ordinator with the city’s parks department, said this year inspectors have seen a lot of the weed.

“Creeping bellflower is kind of a recent issue. We haven’t been battling it for too many years,” Lehman said on Thursday.

“There are other noxious weeds like it, but it’s probably one of those higher on the list that has been increasing at a higher rate over the last few years.”

He said many Alberta communities face the same battle. Both the city and homeowners have to work to control weed that is void of any natural predators, checks or controls.

According to Alberta Invasive Species Council, this perennial, introduced from Europe as an ornamental, reproduces both by seed and underground stems. Its creeping root system makes it difficult to eradicate.

The weed survives in full sun, part-shade or shade and grows to one metre tall or more.

Native harebells can be confused with the creeping bellflower as their flowers are similar. But harebells have shorter stems, smaller flowers and smaller, different shaped leaves.

Weed inspectors will leave a notice at homes where the weed is found in yards. Homeowners are required to control the weed within a couple of weeks or it will be controlled by the city at the homeowner’s expense.

“It’s a noxious weed so we don’t have to completely eradicate it. That would be a good goal, but by law we’re required to control it which means take the flower source, take the seed head off. Be diligent in removing those.”

But it really requires regularly pulling or digging out the roots to help reduce its spread. There’s no quick, chemical fix. Chemicals that do work will kill nearby vegetation.

“Save the rest of your plants. There’s no registered product, chemical, to control it. We’ve been using mostly manual means of trying to control it. Better to not dump chemical on the earth if we can throw some elbow grease into it.”

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