Vectors of Spread:
General: A herbaceous perennial originally brought over as a garden ornamental, Baby’s Breath is now commonly used in flower bouquets and an ornamental filler in flower arrangements.
Flowers: Small (6 – 8 mm in diameter) and white, but occasionally pink, with 5 small petals. Numerous flowers grow on short (1 – 20 mm) stalks in highly branched clusters.
Stem: Erect, single to multiple stems between 40 cm and 1 m tall. Stems are swollen at the nodes, branched near the crown and blueish-green in colour.
Leaves: Opposite, lance-shaped and 2 – 9 mm wide. Leaves grow from the swollen nodes on stems and can be 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 deep.
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.
Habitat and Origin
Baby’s Breath comes from Eurasia and was brought to North America as a garden ornamental. It is now often used in bouquets as an ornamental filler.
Baby’s Breath can survive in many environments with variations in temperature and moisture levels. It is most aggressive in areas of low rainfall, as it thrives in dry, sandy, stony sites and is drought tolerant. It is commonly 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. One plant produces around 13,000 seeds a year, which remain viable in the soil for 1-2 years. Additionally, this plant reproduces vegetatively when shoot production increases in mature plants.
Seeds are spread when mature stalks are blown free by the wind and roll around, similarly to tumbleweeds. Seeds may be spread both short and long distances. Baby’s Breath seeds are also sold in nurseries and grown in garden settings, as this invasive plant is often used as a filler in flower bouquets or arrangements and as a garden ornamental.
Economic and Ecological Impacts
- Outcompetes native and introduced grasses, reducing biodiversity.
- Difficult to remove once established due to its large taproot and its ability to produce large amounts of seeds.
- Mildly toxic to household pets (cats, dogs) due to the toxin gyposenin.
- Diminishes the protein value of hay when mixed in with it, decreasing hay forage value.
What Can I Do?
Baby’s Breath is not yet found in the Sea to Sky region, but is found in neighbouring areas and may arrive here soon. The goal is to prevent Baby’s Breath’s introduction by focusing on education and awareness. If prevention fails, the goal will become immediate eradication following the proposed SSISC EDRR protocol.
Learn to identify Baby’s Breath: use the images on this profile page.
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 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.
- DO NOT compost!
- Baby’s Breath can tolerate shallow tilling, but 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 succeeded unless used at high rates. Spot treatments of glyphosate can 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.
- There is no biocontrol available for Baby’s Breath at this time.
Alberta Invasive Species Council, Baby’s Breath, https://abinvasives.ca/fact-sheet/babys-breath/
Gardening Know How, Is Baby’s Breath bad for cats: Information about Gypsophila poisoning in cats, https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/flowers/babys-breath/is-babys-breath-bad-for-cats.htm
Government of BC, Field Guide to Noxious Weeds and other selected invasive plants of British Columbia, https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/plants-animals-and-ecosystems/invasive-species/publications/field_guide_to_noxious_weeds_10th_edition_32619.pdf
iNaturalist, Baby’s-Breath (Gypsophila paniculata), https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/77315-Gypsophila-paniculata
Invasive Species Compendium (CABI), Gypsophila paniculata (baby’s breath), https://www.cabidigitallibrary.org/doi/10.1079/cabicompendium.26266
Invasive Species Council of BC, Baby’s Breath, https://bcinvasives.ca/invasives/babys-breath/
Lillooet Regional Invasive Species Society, Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila paniculata), https://lriss.ca/species/babys-breath-gypsophila-paniculata
Okanagan Invasive Species Online, Baby’s breath, https://www.oiso.ca/species/babys-breath/
Pacific Northwest Pest Management Handbooks, Babysbreath (Gypsophila paniculata), https://pnwhandbooks.org/weed/problem-weeds/babysbreath-gypsophila-paniculata
Southern Interior Weed Management Committee, ”Baby’ Breath” in Invasive Plants of Southern Interior British Columbia
UC Davis Weed Research and Information Center, “Baby’s-breath” in Weed Control in Natural Areas in the United States, https://wric.ucdavis.edu/information/natural%20areas/wr_G/Gypsophila.pdf