Edmonton Native Plant Society
native plant stewards
ENPG's Corner

Musings, observations, and updates about ENPG Activities and everything else,
by ENPG members

Patsy Cotterill, April 3, 2013

Natural Areas and the Ecological Network in the City of Edmonton: What Do We Know?

In the mid and late 1990s I was paying close attention to the City’s developing policies on natural areas and I even advocated for the preservation of some of them. After I had finished my three-year term as a citizen-at-large on the newly constituted Natural Areas Advisory Committee (still in existence, by the way) in 2005, my interest faded a bit. I switched to spending my time in the back-breaking but relatively less frustrating pursuits of salvaging native plants and learning how to grow them, in an alternative approach to preserving vegetation diversity.

However, in 2012 a couple of events conspired to attract my attention again. One was the coming on stream of the Horse Hill Area Structure Plan, which contains several natural areas, and a move by the City’s Office of Biodiversity (OoB) to engage various environment-oriented organizations within the city to cooperate with each other and with the OoB as part of a Community Biodiversity Network. (See the article in the spring issue of the Parkland Naturalist by Harry Stelfox, the Edmonton Nature Club (ENC)’s representative on this initiative.) I quickly realized that the City had made great progress with its policies and even with some on-the-ground retention of natural areas since I last looked.

Having been aware for a long time that the general public – even the interested public, such as naturalists, knows even less about these issues than I do, I invited Angela Hobson, an ecological planner with the OoB and coordinator of the City’s Master Naturalist Program, to talk to the ENC’s Plant Study Group. In March she gave an excellent presentation entitled, Protecting and Managing Biodiversity in an Urban Centre: Challenges and Opportunities, which was well attended and engendered some lively commentary. This prompted me to go back to the City’s website to check out some of the many relevant documents available online. Reading these documents is essential for a thorough understanding of the City’s vision and policies regarding the environment and what it calls “natural area systems.”

For those whose interest is closely tied to field experiences, of particular interest will be the information on Natural Area Parks, which (unlike many of the natural areas proper) are accessible to the public. These were designated as such in the Urban Parks Management Plan of 2006, and the Parks Branch states that it has been “educating residents living near natural areas about their structure, function and value. “ The Natural Area Parks consist predominantly of remnant woodlots and wetlands in developed neighbourhoods. A list of these parks can be accessed at http://www.edmonton.ca/environmental/natural_areas/Natural-area-parks.aspx complete with a photo of each site, a map , and a basic description of its features.

The Edmonton Naturalization Group (ENG) intends to organize informal field trips to several of these sites during the coming season, and will advertise them on their website. Some sites already have local groups as caretakers or stewards, and in the future ENG may have a role in assisting with vegetation management in these sites.

As I mentioned, the City has advanced in its policies, moving towards more science-based protection and incorporating conservation theory. Its initial approach in the ‘90s was to earmark for conservation the larger natural areas in different sectors of the city representing different types of landscape, for example, the parklands of the northeast, the knob-and-kettle topography of the southeast, and some of the sand dunes-mixed woodlands of the southwest. All these were in the tablelands, the land within City boundaries but outside the intensively developed areas. The river valley and ravines were excluded from consideration because they fell under the North Saskatchewan River Valley Area Redevelopment Plan (Bylaw 7188). Thus tableland natural areas, considered in isolation from each other and the river valley system, were the target of the first (1995) Natural Areas Policy, C-467. Now the City’s new (2007) Natural Area Systems Policy (C-531) is accompanied by a Natural Connections Strategic Plan (2007) which not only integrates the river valley and ravine system with the tablelands natural areas conceptually but also requires that they be connected to form a functioning ecological network using core biodiversity areas, stepping stones and linkages via natural corridors and semi-natural spaces.

This is in recognition of ecological theory that holds that small, isolated natural areas can become “sinks” for biodiversity rather than renewable sources. The key goals of the Plan are to secure and manage such a network. The City envisages that the public will be involved in management though volunteer stewardship; it wants to “work with the community to support conservation goals, and … form partnerships with conservation leaders in the community.” This should provide some interesting opportunities of special interest to ENG and ENC members.

Over the last few years the City’s Office of Biodiversity (formerly Office of Natural Areas) has concentrated on developing high-level policies and plans and on liaising with other City departments. It has at the same time worked to acquire natural areas, since at the rate Edmonton is developing this is a matter of fast-diminishing opportunity and hence urgency. According to The Way We Green strategic plan (page 21), “Between 2000 and 2007, 31% of Edmonton’s Priority Natural Areas on the tablelands were lost to development.” Further, Edmonton’s opportunity to protect its remaining natural habitats will be gone in 15 years, at projected rates of development. (The City currently protects just under 4,000 hectares of natural land, including the river valley and ravine system.)

This approach is logical enough, but I have long complained that the City needs to do a concomitant job of communicating to the public its policies, practices, and particularly, challenges, with respect to preservation of natural areas. Two questions bear investigation, then; why has the City been relatively unsuccessful in saving natural areas; and why is it so important that the public be acquainted with what it is trying to achieve?

Despite more enlightened policies and more staff working on them, the City has only the same statutory tools for natural area acquisition that it had when its first natural areas policy, C-467, was adopted: municipal reserve and environmental reserve. Bear in mind that natural areas are not owned by the City; they are mostly private, even in the river valley, the property of homeowners, farmers or developers. According to the provincial Municipal Government Act, developers must give up for free 10% of the land in a development area for city use, usually for schools and parks. Sometimes this municipal reserve can be used to set aside portions of natural areas, however, or parlayed into money that can be used to purchase natural areas or parts thereof.) The other option is land purchase by the City. There is now a Natural Areas Reserve Fund, from which $20 million was recently dedicated for the purchase of natural areas. Given the high value of land within the City, this figure is of course not nearly enough.

Nor has the Edmonton and Area Land Trust (EALT, set up in 2007) had sufficient funds to acquire natural areas within the City. It relies on donations of land and brokering of conservation easements, and these to date have taken place outside city boundaries. (I understand it is now working on a conservation easement within the city.) (However, don’t let that deter you from making a generous donation to EALT; it requires funds to manage these acquired properties, which are accessible to Edmontonians and contribute to a regional natural area network.) Non-profit organizations (which the City no doubt considers “partners”) that are in the land acquisition business, such as the River Valley Alliance and the North Saskatchewan River Valley Conservation Society, must be large and influential enough to mount huge fund-raising campaigns. The competition for money is fierce!

So, on the ground, with its limited tools, it is not surprising that the City has had limited success in saving its tableland natural areas. Only 2.3% of the overall protected area is represented in the tablelands (The Way We Green, page 21). Given that lack of financial resources is the stumbling block (in turn perhaps a function of priorities) it is imperative that the general public know about and appreciate the value of these natural systems. Considerable public support will create the political will to expend money on acquisition and management of natural systems (not to mention possibly attracting private donations of a substantial nature). Despite some slight counter-evidence, the conventional wisdom among our leaders and citizens persists that the city is a built environment, and the only contribution to the economy comes therefrom. Anyone interested in nature needs to work to change that paradigm.

Below, I have tried to introduce some order into relevant literature available on the City’s website:

  • The base plan is The Way We Green, which is a sub-plan of the City’s latest (November 2008) Municipal Development Plan called The Way We Grow. Visit and browse The Way We Green at http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/documents/TheWayWeGreen-approved.pdf

  • Some of the other relevant plans worth reading are: Biodiversity Plan, Urban Parks Management Plan, Urban Forest Management Plan, North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance’s Integrated Watershed Management Plan, Integrated Pest Management Strategy and River Valley Alliance Action Plan. In addition, the Wildlife Passage Engineering Design Guidelines (2010) should be of interest to naturalists. All are available online. There is also another plan, The City-wide Natural Area Management Plan, which is very relevant to ENG’s interests and activities. The 2012 version isn’t online yet, but I have a digital copy if anyone wants it.

  • Also check out the City of Edmonton Biodiversity Report, 2008 at http://www.edmonton.ca/environmental/documents/BIO_DIVERSITY_REPORT_-_high_res_August2008.pdf

  • For a good, quick overview of the City’s natural area activities, visit Natural Areas and Urban Biodiversity at http://www.edmonton.ca/environmental/natural-areas.aspx and click on the links in the left-hand column, as well as the sub-links in the body of the text. Contact information for the Office of Biodiversity is also there.

  • ENG and Edmonton Nature Club members wishing to get a broader understanding of local nature and biodiversity may also like to register in the Master Naturalist Program, http://www.edmonton.ca/environmental/natural_areas/master-naturalist-program.aspx The program of lectures and field trips is free in exchange for volunteer service. Applications are being taken until April 21. The City envisages that Master Naturalists will play an important role in the site-specific management of natural areas and natural area parks in the future.

  • There are a number of other policies and bylaws as well as government acts, such as the provincial Water Act and Public Lands Act, which relate to water bodies, and the new Weeds Act, together with the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act, all of which citizens with an interest in natural land and preserving biodiversity should be aware of. Some City bylaws are germane to our understanding of provisions for protection or lack of it, including the North Saskatchewan River Valley Area Redevelopment Plan (Bylaw 7188) and the Zoning Bylaw (12800), as well as the City’s Top-of-Bank policy (C-542). All these can be chased down on the City’s web.

I see ENG, with its knowledge of the growing of native plants, having a vital role to play as a City partner in the creation and maintenance of the city’s ecological network as well as the stewardship of some of the core areas. Likewise I see an important role for the ENC in the assessment and monitoring of biodiversity in this network. And both organizations will have large parts to play in educating the general public on the value of natural ecosystems and their components.

For more information on the City’s earlier initiatives, check out the relevant chapters in the ENC’s own history book, Preserving the Natural Environment: Celebrating the Centennial of the Edmonton Nature Club, edited by Brian Hitchon (2009).

In the Natural Connections Strategic Plan http://www.edmonton.ca/environmental/documents/Natural_Connections_-_Strategic_Plan_JUNE_09.pdf it is stated (page 19): “Edmonton is fortunate to still contain all the elements of a functional ecological network….” Is this true? Can the City develop a functional ecological network and can it maintain it? Perhaps the next 15 years – of work by the City and its partners – will tell!
Judith Golub, October 3, 2012

As far as Native Plants are Concerned, Mactaggart Sanctuary is a Disgrace!

Last weekend we went for a walk to a place I’d often heard of, but never been to - the Mactaggart Sanctuary, north of the Anthony Henday along Whitemud Creek. It has the potential to be an absolutely lovely place for an afternoon’s ramble as it doesn’t take long before the traffic noise from the Henday dissolves into the soothing rustle of the leaves overhead. Talk about disappointing though! The trail for a good part of the way was lined with invasive caragana bushes on both sides; the red-osier dogwood was finding it hard to compete or had given up altogether. I even found a patch of that aggressive unstoppable groundcover, horticultural goutweed a.k.a. bishop’s-weed or snow-on-the-mountain.

Coming out of the woods into a large meadow area we stopped to take a look around. Thistles! Smooth brome! Clumps of tansy! As far as the eye could see. And not only that...as we walked on we came upon an area of scattered raspberry bushes - the remnants from an old garden? There was the odd native plant trying to survive; an aster here, a yarrow there, an occasional goldenrod, some willows and actually quite a few roses.

Larch Sanctuary, which we hiked two weekends ago, is further north along Whitemud Creek, and south of 23 Avenue. By comparison it is much richer in the abundance and variety of native plants and I’ve made a mental note to visit more than once next year to look for other wildflowers. Even so, there are a lot of creeping thistles, especially at the beginning.
It is unfortunate that there doesn’t seem to be any stewardship of these areas - especially as we met large numbers of individuals and families using the trails. They are both truly interesting places to go for a ramble alongside a creek.
Cleaning up the caragana, creeping thistle and smooth brome at Mactaggart would be a daunting task, but it would greatly increase the biodiversity of the area, and walking through a meadow of mixed native wildflowers would be a delight.
Why don’t the people using it and living in the area take care of it and do massive weed clean-ups?
Judith Golub, August 16, 2012

A friend forwarded me an email from a local greenhouse's sidewalk sale. I noticed they suggest spraying lawns with Doktor Doom Residual Insecticide to control mosquitoes. I don't know if they are aware that this product is not meant for wholesale spraying or 'misting' as they put it. It comes with a tube attachment that is meant to be inserted into cracks, crevices, anthills for use to exterminate pests, and is mostly meant for large industrial or agricultural business, not for home use.

The active ingredient is permethrin - a highly toxic compound. It can be lethal to cats who may chew sprayed grass, or lie on it, then ingest the poison by cleaning their fur; not to mention what it might do to young kids playing on that lawn. Also, the toxic insecticide sprayed all over the lawn may now have been washed into the sewer system and is making its way to the river. Doktor Doom Residual insecticide is lethal to fish, frogs and other water creatures. It's definitely not a good substance to send to the folks downstream either. Permethrin is a long lasting insecticide. Studies have shown that permethrin is still active after 40 days.
The EPA website says this about using Doktor Doom Residual Insecticide: ‘...require applicators to wear double layers, chemical-resistant gloves, and PF10 respirator.’

Unfortunately, insecticides don't discriminate. They kill bees, butterflies, ladybugs, dragonflies, lacewings and all the other beneficial bugs that hang out in yards. Not good for the robins, woodpeckers or other birds that eat these insects either.

This greenhouse has a good deal of influence over the gardening public - I wish they would advocate extreme caution, urge people to read the directions on the can, and use according to those directions only in dire necessity.
Cherry Dodd, June 13, 2012

We have monarch butterflies at the Old Man Creek Nursery plot!!

One landed on a Milkweed Plant right in front of me. Monarchs this early means we should have caterpillars for the first time ever and we will really have to take care of both patches of Milkweed since it is the only species that Monarchs lay their eggs on.
Patsy Cotterill, February 23, 2012

Botanical Lessons,
or Plants Named after People: Spotted Joe Pye Weed and Paterson’s Curse

A recent email from Liz Deleeuw about Joe Pye Weed and who the heck was Joe Pye? sent me scrambling to the Internet. Joe Pye, it quickly turns out, was an Indian healer who used a group of plants (Joe Pye weeds, in the then genus Eupatorium of the daisy family, Asteraceae), for medicinal purposes. From there I went to my usual online sources (including what I consider to be the definitive reference, Flora of North America, FNA) to find out more about our species, Spotted Joe Pye Weed, (former) Eupatorium maculatum.

First thing, it turns out that our plant is now in a new genus, split off from Eupatorium, called Eutrochium. It thus becomes Eutrochium maculatum. A major difference between the two genera is that Eupatorium species have mostly opposite leaves (although those at the top of the plant can be alternate), whereas in Eutrochium the leaves are mostly in whorls (rings) of 3 to 7 leaves at each node or point of insertion. Both Eupatorium and Eutrochium are in the tribe Eupatoriaeae of the very large plant family Asteraceae (actually the second largest in the Eutrochium maculatum, presumably world), along with Liatris (blazing-star), and Ageratum of garden fame. Molecular evidence
var. bruneri, from near Wagner Natural supports the splitting off of the whorled-leaved Joe Pye Weeds into a separate genus.
Photo: P. Cotterill, 4 September 2005

Eutrochium maculatum is a rare species in Alberta, and knowing that the former “Eupatorium” species are more common in eastern North America, I have long been puzzled by its occurrence in the province. It occurs in great numbers along the Christina River, a tributary of the Clearwater River, north of Fort McMurray. I know also of one population of it in a calcareous swamp just north of Highway 16 near Wagner Natural Area, and a single plant in Wagner Natural Area itself. I suspected that the Alberta plants were actually garden escapes, brought in by human migrants from the east, or alternatively, had been transported by waterfowl, since these plants are creatures of wetlands. However, a check of Flora North America suggested I was likely wrong (although not necessarily totally discounting the role of waterfowl in its distribution). This Flora recognizes three varieties of Eutrochium maculatum, of which only one, var. bruneri, occurs this far west, stretching from Ontario to BC, and across central and western U.S. Only the northern (Fort McMurray area) distribution is shown on the FNA map, while it is shown as occurring only in southern B.C. There are also curious gaps in distribution.

My next step was to check my own specimens. Unfortunately I didn’t have any Albertan material; my only E. maculatum specimen was collected from a gravel pit in Hamilton, New Brunswick. It actually keys to var. bruneri as its stem is covered in tiny hairs (puberulence) as are the undersides of its leaves. But according to FNA, var. bruneri does not occur in the Maritimes. I came to the conclusion, although with no great certainty, that the New Brunswick specimen was actually Eutrochium maculatum var. maculatum. This example probably illustrates as well as any some of the challenges associated with plant taxonomy. It also indicates to me how important it is to consider varieties or subspecies, something the Alberta Conservation Information Management System, which tracks provincially rare plants, has been reluctant to do. I mean to continue this investigation. I am going to check out specimens at the University of Alberta’s herbarium, and also make sure to examine some local fresh material this coming season.

Spotted Joe Pye Weed, Eutrochium maculatum, is undoubtedly a great ornamental for the garden, and it attracts pollinators. Nevertheless I do have some slight, nagging misgivings about widely popularizing it for garden use. It does not seem to have spread in our local, Edmonton area. But what if it suddenly developed some aggressive genetics, and started spreading like wildfire, reducing native diversity in local wetlands? In other words, could we have another purple loosestrife situation on our hands? By growing naturally rare plants are we interfering with natural distributions? It is something to think about. Does anyone out there have horticultural experience with the Joe Pye Weeds?

On the other hand, the Joe Pye Weeds make great plants for pollinators and, besides being an asset in the garden, may possibly grow well along roadside ditches, thereby greatly enhancing pollinator habitat. Possibly this is a subject for research, a conundrum that could be presented at the upcoming Alberta Native Plant Council in St. Albert in April.
Thinking of plants that are named after people put me in mind of a botanical experience I had in Victoria, Australia in 2010. While travelling northeast from Melbourne in that state I noticed great swaths of blue covering the lower parts of the otherwise green hills. When I got a chance to see a plant close up I recognized it as a species of blueweed or viper’s bugloss (Echium spp.). It turned out to be Echium plantagineum, a European-Mediterranean species. In Australia, its common name (which I heard a farmer friend use when I drew attention to it) is Paterson’s curse, or alternatively (and inscrutably) Jane’s salvation. It turns out (online information, again) it was brought over from Europe by one Jane Paterson as a garden ornamental. Poor Jane then watched helplessly as it spread happily over the Australian sheep pastures. Finding out how the Australians cope with this aggressive weed was good for another 20 minutes’ trolling on the Internet!
Viper’s bugloss or blueweed, Echium vulgare, from near Merritt, B.C.
Photo: P. Cotterill, 10 June 2010.

Our own notorious Albertan viper’s bugloss, a particularly common weed of the Crow’s-Nest Pass area and westwards, is of course Echium vulgare. The closest plant to Edmonton I have seen was growing in some waste ground along a rail line in a small town off Highway 14. Hence presumably our northern conditions are not to its liking. Even so, this incredibly beautiful plant should under no circumstances be encouraged. We don’t want any “curses” attributed to the Edmonton Naturalization Group!
Patsy Cotterill Dec. 20 - Note on Shooting Star Hill:
Returning from the Northern Forestry Centre I stopped in at Shooting Star Hill. I’d noticed that the red fence had been taken down and an Epcor truck had been parked perilously close to our willow bed. When I got up there I found that they had installed two ugly transformers right on top of the hill (though down slope of the little path that joggers have made). They have of course “disturbed” much of that hill, including the gentle slope below the toboggan and staircase area, although it looks as though quite a lot of the original vegetation has been left, particularly further upslope. Should we try and find out how they intend to restore it? Do we have any relevant seeds? If they sow Kentucky bluegrass they will probably get a good sward which could have the disadvantage of precluding the ingress of more native stuff such as sedges and asters.

The building is incredibly huge, and the whole slope is ruined, but I have thought of one good possible consequence – we can apply to give presentations and have pot-luck suppers there. (I was complaining to Ian Montgomerie, the CEPA initiative guy, that there were no free/cheap venues in the city where ENG could give presentations/workshops/have meetings/suppers, etc.).

They have, however, left Pat Wishart’s beloved Douglas-fir tree standing. Be thankful for small mercies, eh?
Cherry Dodd Nov.1 - Fun Facts
This summer Donna Johnson gave me a booklet, "Common Yukon Roadside Flowers"  that she got on her road trip to the Yukon.

It didn't surprise me to see that several species of local wildflowers also grow in the Yukon, but I was surprised at how many fascinating facts were packed into such a small booklet.

Take Fireweed for instance. I have always wondered at its ability to magically appear out of nowhere and carpet the ground after a forest fire. The booklet explains: " In forests, plants can be seen in their much less conspicuous non-flowering form, waiting for fire to clear out the shading trees." Hmmm, who knew that the fireweed was there all along, blending into the background foliage! I wonder how many other plants have this ability.

I also found out that Sparrow's Egg Lady's-slipper will grow on rocky ground such as gravel outwashes as well as in boggy areas, so long as the ground is wet enough. Did you know it can take 15 years for Lady's-slipper to bloom for the first time?

I didn't know that Pasture Sage, Artemisia frigida, (the one with the delicate fern-like leaves) can be used instead of commercial sage in cooking even though the 2 species are not closely related.

Did you know that in the Yukon the native dandelion, Taraxacum ceratophorum, outnumbers the common introduced dandelion. In fact the Yukon has 4 species of native dandelion ranging in colour from white through pink to almost purple.

Speaking of purple, the photo that really caught my attention was a pic of a deep purple Prairie Crocus. What a difference from the delicate pale mauve shades of our local Prairie Crocus. This has to be a mistake, I thought,
so I googled Yukon Prairie Crocus and yes, there they were - pics of the deep purple Prairie Crocus flowers growing in the wild.

Here is the link to the booklet so you can see for yourself:
Gail Fennell Wed. Sept 21
We were talking about the Anthony Henday the other day. I was driving down the section between Stony Plain Road and 62 Ave thinking about the plants the city usually puts alongside a road. I was imagining what the area between the north and south sections of the highway would look like with the multi-storey growth that permaculture talks about - it had to be low enough not to interfere with the lights, and I wondered what it would look like if the city used the shrubs, forbs, and grasses that were growing in the area before the highway and the housing went in. Willows as the tallest, highbush cranberry, dogwood, wild roses, wolfwillow, currants, bracted honeysuckle, giant hyssop, lungwort, canada violets, anenomes, sandwort, blue eyed grass, reed canary grass, rice grass, cattails, a small kind of prairie buttercup, bebb's sedge (which btw is volunteering in my yard!) - could even let the smart weed and goosefoot in. I'm sure there's more - just can't think of them right now.

Security/safety is always an issue, but no one's supposed to walking down the middle of the highway anyway! Snow drifting should be lessened compared to the open road we had to put up with last winter. Probably have to do something about the open space to the west to stop the snow getting to the road in the first place.

I know the stormwater ponds have to be kept more open, but surely there is a way to repopulate the trees and shrubs that were taken out to change the topography. Maybe there's a better solution for all the people who are so upset about losing all the trees along the TUC.

I think having something parklike along the highway would change driving behavior for the better. Then I realized having all those shrubs and plants would make a great wildlife corridor between the North Saskatchewan River and the Sturgeon River. If it took a wire fence to keep them off the road, it could be done. There has been a lot of wild life displaced in the last 4 years and nobody cares! - at least it seems that way.

One situation that struck me hard was a young buck with 4 does coming out of the trees about 5:30 in the evening at Lessard road by the Henday. I slowed down and the guy behind me got mad. Fortunately the deer decided not to try crossing Lessard but it was so clear they knew where they were and didn't know what to do about the change. Actually there was another time too - deer along 215 st north of the Whitemud were fairly common but they didn't usually cross 215 st - until this spring when all the trees and shrubs were cleared. The deer kept coming to the same place they'd been browsing but there were fewer and fewer trees so the deer became more and more visible over the week. When most of the trees were gone, I saw one deer still trying to forage among the felled trees. The next morning the trees had been chipped and the deer was dead on the side of the road. So sad that the planning the city does is so narrowly focused. They could plan for the wildlife if they wanted to.
July 13th - This is interesting. Scientists in Japan are experimenting with using sunflowers to soak up cesium from radioactive soil near the site of the nuclear disaster. Once the sunflowers are mature they will be harvested and decomposed using bacteria. The resulting compost will be treated as radioactive waste.

Sunflowers were sucessfully used at Chernobyl to suck up radioactive cesium and strontium in a pond in 1994, and also to remove uranium from contaminated springs near the Oak Ridge (TN) National Laboratory in 1996.
How the heck have sunflowers evolved this ability to clean the soil? Well, it seems that "while animals can move away from pollutants or other toxics (if they’re lucky), plants have evolved ways to live with the toxics and eventually extract them from the soil." This means that our native sunflowers, (Common Tall Sunflower and Rhombic-leaved Sunflower), probably also have this ability. What other plants could be used to heal the soil?

The information in this entry was taken from the Care2 site. If you would like to read more, you can read what they say at: http://www.care2.com/causes/sunflowers-may-heal-fukushimas-radioactive-soil.html

Cherry Dodd - July 12 Today's garden section in the Edmonton Journal is all about roses. A lot of people ask me about growing native roses. I have a whole hedge of them. I love them. They are beautiful when in flower and provide me with rose hips in the fall.

However I don't recommend planting them if you have a city lot. They sucker like crazy, and my hedge would turn into a thicket in one season if I didn't keep pruning it and taking out the suckers weekly.

Still not convinced? They also have incredibly deep roots. I once visited a former woodland that had been destroyed and stripped right down to the subsoil. It was a field of bare beige clay, but little rose shoots were already poking up out of the barren landscape from deeply buried roots.
Enjoy roses in the wild - there are lots of them around, or plant them on a restoration site or in the country. Let them roam free.
It's too hard to keep them under control in the city, and gardening should be easy and carefree - not a lot of work.
I had no experience with native roses when I planted mine, and for sure, I won't plant anymore in my garden.

Cherry Dodd July 11 2011 Discovered (thanks to Mike!) a new prairie yesterday, just outside Edmonton and close to Fort Saskatchewan - very exciting! Lots of unusual prairie grasses - lots of spear grass growing on a bentonite clay slope - I had always assumed it only grew in sandy soil.
Also 2 plants of Lilac-flowered Beardtongue ( the closest, and only other population so far, is at Ft. Sk. Prairie)