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Biodiversity and Invasive Species

We have a diverse ecosystem that is home to many plants and animals. However, invasive species can pose a threat to them and their habitats. To maintain balance, we must actively manage and prevent the spread of invasive species to protect our native biodiversity.

Invasive species 

Invasive species are non-native plants, animals, or microorganisms that when introduced to a new environment, can cause harm to the ecosystem, economy, or human health. There are many different types of invasive species in our area, but the following are of particular importance. Consult the Ontario invasive species page for more details.

Wild parsnip

Beware of wild parsnip, also known as poison parsnip. It's a growing issue in Kingston, found in roadside ditches, uncultivated areas and nature trails. Avoid it because the plant's sap can cause skin and eye irritation, severe burns and blistering when exposed to sunlight. These blisters can cause permanent scarring and typically appear one to two days after contact with the plant.

Learn more about how to identify and the impact of the invasive species.

We work to manage this weed on our municipal property. However, it is tough to completely eradicate. Our staff regularly mows beside nature trails and roadsides specifically targeting wild parsnip. Municipal parks and public spaces are mowed weekly and nearby naturalized areas are monitored for wild parsnip. 

To stay safe, trail users and their pets should walk on paths and avoid naturalized areas.

If you have wild parsnip on your property, it is your responsibility to manage it.

Do not burn or compost wild parsnip plants that you have cut down or dug up. Instead, let the stems dry out completely at the site if possible. Carefully dispose of the plant material in black plastic bags and leave them in direct sun for a week or more.

Please note that wild parsnip is not accepted in the green bin program or at the leaf and yard waste site. Bagged wild parsnips can be thrown away with your household garbage.

Giant hogweed

An invasive plant originally from Asia, giant hogweed is spreading in North America. Handling it incorrectly can cause severe burns. Learn more about giant hogweed.

Do not burn or compost giant hogweed. Instead, remove its flower heads, put them in sealed black plastic bags without dropping any seeds, and leave them in the sun for a week. Let the stems and roots dry completely before disposing of them.  

You can throw away bagged Giant Hogweed in your household garbage bins. It is not allowed in City green bins or at the leaf and yard waste site. 

Threats to trees 

Trees provide many benefits to the community, so it is important to keep them healthy and understand the pests and diseases that threaten them.

Spongy moth infestation 

The Spongy Moth is an invasive species that threatens trees. These outbreaks occur every seven to 10 years. Each outbreak lasts three to five years. The moths primarily target oak trees but can affect other types. One caterpillar can consume many leaves. Healthy trees can recover if they receive sufficient water during droughts, but coniferous trees can suffer permanent damage with no needle regrowth.

Tree pests & diseases 

The following tree pests and diseases are common in Kingston.

Tree pests: 

    • Aphids
    • Eastern Tent Caterpillar
    • Emerald Ash Borer (EAB)
    • Spongy Moth
    • Fall Web Worms
    • Forest Tent Caterpillar

Tree diseases: 

    • Anthracnose
    • Dutch Elm Disease 
    • Maple Tar Spot

For more information on how to identify and manage these threats, visit the Government of Ontario’s Forest Health webpage.

The City of Kingston acknowledges that we are on the traditional homeland of the Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee and the Huron-Wendat, and thanks these nations for their care and stewardship over this shared land.

Today, the City is committed to working with Indigenous peoples and all residents to pursue a united path of reconciliation.

Learn more about the City's reconciliation initiatives.

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