City of Edmonton adds weed-identification feature to 311 app

The City of Edmonton has added a new option to its 311 app that helps identify unknown plants and weeds. It also flags if they’re noxious or invasive.

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The new feature works in a similar way to the graffiti- or pothole-reporting features. People can upload a photo of the plant in question, any other details about what it looks like or where they found it, and the location of the plant will be shared with city crews (as long as the phone’s location services are turned on).

READ MORE: Edmonton launches new 311 app

“When they submit a finding, it comes to our department — parks and roads — then one of our staff we will get back to the resident with information about this plant: what it is, whether it’s regulated in Alberta and what to do to control it if they need that information,” said Qiting Chen, the city’s integrated pest management specialist.

She said the city will respond to people’s reports within seven days.

“This new feature is actually a win-win for both residents and the city,” Chen said.

“Residents can now feed their curiosity when they’re out there strolling and see an unknown plant. Now they have a channel to submit their question, too. As well, it helps the city to detect invasive species that may come into the city that we may not be aware of.”

READ MORE: See a parking infraction? Report it through City of Edmonton’s 311 app

City staff will also advise residents how best to remove any invasive plants from their property. Crews will handle threatening species on public lands.

Even though a plant might look nice, that doesn’t mean it’s not bad for Alberta. “Not all flowers are friendly,” Chen said.

“Most of the invasive plants that are regulated in Alberta were introduced here as horticultural species,” she explained. “Most of them look super pretty and that is the reason why they got introduced.

“But soon enough, if they escape gardens and go into natural areas, soon enough we found out they are a huge threat to biodiversity in our ecosystem.

“Invasive plants have the ability to out-compete our native plants. There is a lack of natural enemies for those invasive plants because they got introduced here from other places but their enemy didn’t come along with them.”

READ MORE: Which Edmonton ward files the most complaints with 311?

Click here to download Edmonton’s 311 app for Apple or Android devices.

Since it launched in late May, the new feature has been fielding new plant reports every day.

For more information on Edmonton weeds, educational events and management practices, visit the city’s website.

WATCH (Oct. 1, 2014): The city is hoping to expand the options available on its 311 app. Emily Mertz has the details.