Baby’s Breath is a perennial herb native to Europe and Asia. It was introduced as a garden ornamental in the late 1800′s. It is now widespread across Canada and the northern US. It has been observed growing in a variety of habitats. Although it grows on fine-textured and course-textured soils, in Alberta and B.C. most infestations are associated with the latter.
This abundantly branched perennial grows to almost 1 metre in height. Seedling plants emerge in early May and develop only one shoot the first year. Established plants have a deep, thick penetrating root system with abundant food reserves that give rise to new shoots in late April. Stems are smooth, linear leaves are opposite, hairless, with a prominent mid vein and grow 2 to 10 cm long. Plants do not flower until the third year when flower buds develop. Flowers are produced in white clusters about early June. Fruits begin forming in mid-July and split open when mature in late July.
The only type of vegetative reproduction is by an increase of shoots on older plants. Seed is the primary mechanism for reproduction with an average plant producing 13,700 seeds. The majority of seeds drop close to plants however some seeds are dispersed to remote locations by wind. Seeds show little or no dormancy.
Baby’s Breath is observed in a wide variety of habitats. Small infestations occur along roadsides, in ditches and vacant lots. Larger infestations are known in pastures and rangeland areas. In Canada, baby’s breath is most aggressive in areas of low rainfall. Although it will grow in fine textured soils, this soil type retards it root development. Baby’s breath depends on stored food reserves in the roots for perennial regrowth, therefore prefers courser soils where extensive root systems are better able to develop.
Baby’s Breath is invasive on sub-marginal farm or grazing land. When it escapes cultivation it out-competes native and introduced perennial grasses. Baby’s breath infested hay contains reduced crude protein content. It is considered unsightly on vacant lots and along fencelines. Baby’s Breath is used as a garden ornamental and extensively in the floral industry for bouquets.
A flat-nosed spade is placed close to the base of each baby’s breath plant and pushed into the sand at a sharp downward angle so that the tap root is severed as far below ground as possible. The goal is to sever the tap root below the caudex, the point where the root becomes the stem. If severed below the caudex the plant cannot resprout; if severed above the caudex, the plant has the chance to resprout.
At the end of a growing season, there are usually many large piles of baby’s breath. Piles are removed by placing them in 55-gallon metal drums and burning them. Ashes are spread and mixed with sand when cooled.
Spot-burning Procedure and Equipment:
The propane torch that is most effective is made by Flame Engineering, Inc., and is the “VT 3-30C Red Dragon Vapor Torch Kit.” This torch has a maximum output of 500,000 BTU/hr, with maximum flame temperature of between 2,050oF and 2075oF. Under normal operating pressure of 30 PSI it will consume about 10 lbs. propane/hr, with maximum consumption at maximum operation of about 23 lbs./hr. Burn time when using a full 20 lb. propane tank has usually been about 2 to 2.5 hours.
Before burn day:
A burn permit is requested from the fire department. Other law enforcement and neighbor notifications occur as necessary.
During burn day:
Weather is taken on-site before and during operation. Area to be cleared is defined and checked for fire hazards (wildfire potential, poison ivy). The main suppression tools are rakes to remove scattered dead plant material and expose a sand firebreak outlining the burn unit.