Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Uses for Invasive Species

There was some discussion about invasives at our last meeting. This post introduces a new angle.

Like most Powell River residents, you are probably fighting a battle with blackberries and English ivy, trying to prevent them from taking over your yard. This spring, instead of attempting to dispose of the plants you pull out or cut off, why not
look at artistic ways of using them? Baskets and woven sculptures, dyes, and bionetting for slope stabilizing are some of the options.

 Sharon Kallis, The Ivy Boat, 2009, English ivy, assorted park maintenance branch waste.

 Berry basket made of blackberry bark by Joy Witzsche.

Ivy bionetting.

Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus)
This video by the Urban Weaver Project shows that new canes must be harvested while they have ridges. The thorns are removed, the vine is crunched underfoot then split, bundled, and dried.

English ivy (Hedera helix)
You can see the harvest of ivy in this video. If harvesting from the ground, watch that you don’t uproot native species that are still managing to survive amongst the ivy. You do have to be careful of vines growing up trees. It is often suggested not to rip them off the tree as the little roots embed into the bark and you can cause damage to the tree if you pull the ivy.

Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) is a little more difficult to work with. It may be better for large-scale projects and on-site art installations. The flowers can be used for a pale yellow dye. In this video, the potential for use in spinning and weaving is explored.

Sharon Kallis has just released her new book Common Threads. In addition to practical information on harvesting and utilizing invasive species, she emphasizes community-building and environmental issues of invasive plants in Stanley Park and other areas of Vancouver. There are step-by-step photos and instructions on making rope, twining (a basket making technique), coil basketry, and Ten Straw Diamond braiding. Find Common Threads at  

Are you inspired to try something new? Urban Weaver Project produced these videos with information on harvesting and preparing the material for use and the Urban Weaver Studio  runs workshops in Vancouver.

 The Coiled River at Science World. English ivy.

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