Okanagan residents reminded not to buy invasive plant that can cause boils, blisters and temporary blindness

Be aware of toxic plants

The Okanagan and Similkameen Invasive Species Society (OASISS) is reminding residents to pay attention to what plants they pick up from the garden centre as spring planting approaches.

Toxic species are not always known and have been shown in the past to pop up for sale.

The perennial plant myrtle spurge, also known as "donkey tail," has been widely used as a plant in rock gardens, but contains a milky sap that can be harmful to humans and animals.

With spiral-shaped, blue-green leaves, the plant looks like a succulent. But unfortunately, is invasive and toxic.

Inside the plant is a milky sap that if it gets on skin, can cause blisters, swelling, and very painful areas that get really red.

And if get into your eyes, it can cause blindness.

The evergreen perennial grows between 10 to 15 cm tall, with a low, spreading mound on the ground. When it blooms, the flowers are inconspicuous, surrounded by yellow-green flower-like bracts.

While Lisa Scott, executive director for OASISS, and her team work on educating the public about this invasive plant and don't see it for sale often in garden centres, it can pop up.

Last year the organization was notified by local residents after taking notice of the plant being sold at multiple garden centres.

"Please let us know if you find it on store shelves. If you have this plant in your garden, take extreme caution when removing it. Wear gloves, long sleeves, and eye protection. Do your best to remove all of the roots and ideally control the plant before it goes to seed. Consider replacement species such as sedum or perennial bunchgrasses," Scott said in her social media post.

As the plant grows all up and down the Okanagan Valley, residents are urged to watch out and be cautious. Scott said there are cases in the Okanagan Similkameen in both adults and children that have been impacted by the toxins from this plant.

Animals can also have a reaction on their skin if they come in contact with the sap and if ingested, can become quite ill and see digestive issues.

Since the society is well aware of the plant, new sightings in nature do not need to be reported.

Find out more about spotting and removing invasive plant species in the Okanagan and Similkameen online here.

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