Greater Victoria residents warned of poisonous invasive plant spreading from Washington state

Italian arum can cause sickness if ingested and skin irritatoins if touched. Horticulture Centre of the Pacific

A Victoria-area non-profit horticultural group is warning the public about a new toxic invasive plant species that’s made its way to Vancouver Island from Washington state.

“Italian arum is poisonous, harms riparian and other sensitive habitats, and is extremely difficult to control. It has escaped in several counties in western Washington and is invading more areas rapidly,” the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific said in a Facebook post.

“Ingestion of plants could cause health problems such as sickness and may require medical treatment. Contact with plant parts may cause severe skin irritation for sensitive individuals.”

The plant can escape into the wild through yard debris or contaminated compost, the group said. Once in the wild it can out-shade smaller native plant species, preventing them from flourishing.

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Stopping the spread of the plant can also be challenging, as it multiplies yearly to create new plants, and birds are known to spread the seeds, according to the group.

Italian arum is native to southern and western Europe, and originally came to North America as an ornamental plant due to its “attractive winter foliage and red berries,” according to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

It is currently spreading on the West Coast of North America, and has been reported in parts of the eastern U.S.

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The plant thrives in moist, shady spots with humusy soil, but can become drought tolerant once established, the botanical garden said.

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The Horticulture Centre of the Pacific is asking residents of Southern Vancouver Island to keep their eyes out for Italian arum.

It said the plant has been added to the Capital Regional District’s list of invasive species. You can find out more about invasive species and how to report them at the CRD’s website.

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