Healthy Step to Nature
Voluntary Work for Uprooting Invasive Species
I’ve got a recollection of a plant whose seedcases we used to pop open for fun as children. Little did I know, and little did my parents know, that the plant we were helping to spread, was one of the most relentless invasive species in Finland, called Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera).
Surprisingly, many common plants in our nearby nature are species that have escaped their original decorative or educational purposes in our back yards and botanical gardens and are now mercilessly taking over space from our domestic species.
Terve askel luontoon (Healthy step to nature) is the allergy, skin and asthma federation and WWF Finland’s project dedicated to eliminating invasive species with the help of voluntary workers. Helsinki Wildfoods and also the City of Helsinki volunteered in one the project’s events in Tahvolanlahdenniemi in August, 2017. Events like these are open to anyone interested in helping out in the uprooting of several invasive species that threaten the existence of Finnish domestic varieties, for example, the Japanese Rose and Himalayan Balsam. Surprisingly, many common plants in our nearby nature are species that have escaped their original decorative or educational purposes in our back yards and botanical gardens and are now mercilessly taking over space from our domestic species.
Unwanted Japanese Rose
This time, volunteers had been called to weed out the Japanese Rose (Rosa rugosa). We were happily surprised to witness such a big group of volunteers gathered to Tahvolanlahdenniemi to root out this thick growing plant. It had already managed to cover the whole beach at this point. What makes Japanese Rose an unwanted visitor on our beaches, is the way it quickly develops such a tight growth that it essentially suffocates domestic seaside varieties and therefore takes over our seaside sceneries.
But what can one do with these plants that are harmful to our domestic nature? To our luck, some of them are edible, such as the Japanese Rose. Once uprooted, this plant can easily be utilized in your home kitchen. The petals can be used to season sweets, sweet pastries and salads and the berries can be pickled as jam. Imagine this, you can actually eat your nearby nature to a better state; one that’s more diverse and indigenous!
The volunteers at Tahvolanlahdenniemi were able to witness how a beautiful sand beach revealed itself underneath the Japanese Rose growths. Also, a great amount of plastic waste was gathered and picked up, sending a reminder to us about how much plastic travels around our sensitive Baltic Sea.
Taking part in this kind of voluntary work was an excellent reminder of what a group of people working towards the same end can achieve. In times like these, when it’s easy to feel weak confronting the big global threats, I believe these grass-root level activities are the moments that bring real hope – together the change is possible, little by little.
Join the group on Facebook and get more information on foreign plant species, upcoming events and possibilities to volunteer: Terve askel luontoon!
Yle Areena: Luonto lähellä, ma 16.10.2017
Check Helsinki Wildfood’s book Villiyrtit – hyvinvointia kotikulmilta for recipes such as the Japanese Rose pudding!
Photos: Aino Huotari