Vectors of Spread:
General: A herbaceous perennial originally brought over as a garden ornamental, Baby’s Breath is now commonly used in flower bouquets as well as an ornamental filler in flower arrangements.
Flowers: Small (6 – 8 mm in diameter) and white, but on a rare occasion they can also be pink, with 5 small petals. Numerous flowers can be found on short (1 – 20 mm) stalks in highly-branched clusters.
Stem: Erect, single to multiple stems that can grow to be between 0.4 m and 1 m tall. Stems are swollen at the nodes, branched near the crown and bluish-green.
Leaves: Opposite, lance shaped and 2 – 9 mm wide. Leaves grow from the swollen nodes on stems and can be either smooth or hairy. They occur mainly on the upper parts of the stem.
Seeds: Small, black, kidney-shaped seeds.
Fruit: Small capsules containing 2 – 5 seeds.
Roots: Deep taproot that can extend up to 4 m.
Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) can grow up to 1 m tall and has clusters of white flowers with yellow centers. It blooms from mid-summer to early fall. The leaves are long and narrow, and give off a grey-hue due to the fine hairs that cover the leaves and stems.
Hewitt’s Double Meadow Rue (Thalictrum delayayi ‘Hewitt’s Double’) is a herbaceous perennial that grows cloud-like sprays of lavender pink flowers that bloom in late spring. It grows up to 1.5 m tall in moist soil and semi-shade.
Habitat and Origin
Baby’s Breath originates from Eurasia and was brought over as a garden ornamental.
It can survive in a multitude of environments with variations in both temperature and moisture levels. It is most aggressive in areas of low rainfall, as it thrives in dry, sandy, stony places. It can commonly be found in lightly grazed pastures, roadside ditches, hay fields and abandoned fields.
Propagation and Vectors of Spread
Baby’s Breath reproduces both by seed and vegetatively. Each plant produces fruit in the form of small capsules that contain 2 to 5 black, kidney shaped seeds. It produces around 13,000 seeds a year. Baby’s Breath reproduces vegetatively when shoot production increases in mature plants.
The seeds of Baby’s Breath are spread when wind blows the mature stalks free from the parent plant and they roll around, similarly to tumbleweeds. Seeds can be spread both short and long distances.
Seeds are also sold in nurseries and grown in garden settings. Baby’s Breath is often used as a filler in flower bouquets, flower arrangements and as a garden ornamental.
Economic and Ecological Impacts
- Outcompetes native and introduced grasses
- Difficult to remove once established due to its large taproot and its ability to produce large amounts of seeds
- Reduces the protein value of hay when mixed in with it, therefore decreasing hay forage value
- Mildly toxic to household pets due to the toxin gyposenin
What Can I Do?
Baby’s Breath is NOT currently found throughout the Sea to Sky Corridor, so the best approach to controlling its spread is by PREVENTION.
Learn to identify Baby’s Breath: use the images presented in this profile page to learn how to identify Baby’s Breath
What to do if you spot it: You can report any Baby’s Breath sighting by clicking here.
- Regularly monitor properties for weed infestations.
- Ensure soil and gravel are uncontaminated before transport.
- Check wildflower mixes to ensure that they do not contain Baby’s Breath.
- Ensure that plants are disposed of in a garbage bag if found in floral arrangements to prevent seeds from spreading.
- Unload, park or store equipment or vehicles in infested areas; remove plant material from any equipment, vehicles or clothing used in such areas and wash equipment and vehicles at designated cleaning sites before leaving infested areas.
- Plant Baby’s Breath in a garden, no matter how well-contained its enclosure may seem.
- Move soil that has been contaminated with Baby’s Breath.
- Baby’s Breath can tolerate shallow tilling, however extensive cultivation can effectively control an infestation.
- Plants will re-sprout if not severed below the root crown, so hand-pulling is only effective if the root crown is severed several cm’s below ground level.
- Mowing can prevent seed production but is not an effective control method.
- Several herbicides have been tested on Baby’s Breath infestations, but none have had success unless used at high rates. Spot treatments of glyphosate have proven to provide some control and should prevent seed production after several treatments.
- We recommend that any herbicide application is carried out by a person holding a valid BC Pesticide Applicator Certificate. Before selecting and applying herbicides, you must review and follow herbicide labels and application rates; municipal, regional, provincial and federal laws and regulations; species-specific treatment recommendations, and site-specific goals and objectives.
Alternate cropping and summer fallow provide control by reducing soil disturbance and allowing re-introduction of native plants.
Alberta Invasive Species Council, Baby’s Breath, https://abinvasives.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/FS-Babys-Breath.pdf
Central Kootenays Invasive Species Society, Baby’s Breath, https://ckiss.ca/species/babys-breath/
Government of British Columbia, Baby’s Breath, https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/plants-animals-and-ecosystems/invasive-species/alerts/babys_breath.pdf
iNaturalist, Baby’s Breath, https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/77315-Gypsophila-paniculata
Invasive Species Council of British Columia, Baby’s Breath, https://bcinvasives.ca/invasives/babys-breath/
–, Grow Me Instead, https://bcinvasives.ca/documents/GMI-Booklet_2013_WEB.pdf
Lillooet Regional Invasive Species Society, Baby’s Breath, https://lriss.ca/species/babys-breath-gypsophila-paniculata
Montana State University Invasive Plants, Monthly Weed Post: Baby’s Breath, http://msuinvasiveplants.org/documents/extension/weed_posts/2015/May_babys_breath.pdf
Peace River Regional District, Profile of Invasive Plant Species: Baby’s Breath, https://prrd.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/page/plans-reports-invasive-plants/PRRD-Profile-of-Invasive-Plant-Species.pdf
Weed Research and Information Center, Weed Report: Baby’s Breath, https://wric.ucdavis.edu/information/crop/natural%20areas/wr_G/Gypsophila.pdf