Friday, April 20, 2007

Answers to the Noxious Weeds Quiz

Below are the answers to the 10 photos posted last week as CFWEP's "Know Your Noxious Weeds" Quiz. I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that my job was very easy in that NO ONE tried out their noxious, nada, nothing!!!?
Of course, the bad news is that we don't have any winners in the War on Weeds and we still have a whole pile of CFWEP stickers to give away.
Don't worry, we'll have more quiz opportunities for you in the future. Hopefully we'll get some participants on the next one!!!

Knowing your noxious weeds is important, as a landowner, a sportsmen or just part of being a well-informed citizen. Here are the answers to the quiz, along with a little extra information on each one:
1. Baby's Breath; NOXIOUS. This pretty, but not too pretty ornamental is commonly seen in floral arrangements. Unfortunately, like a lot of "pretty ornamentals" it is also HIGHLY INVASIVE, especially in disturbed areas. Baby's Breath is not on the Montana Noxious Weed list, but it's a big enough problem in Butte that it's on the Silver Bow County noxious weed who's who. See a vacant lot in Butte? Then chances are, you're probably looking at Baby's Breath too.

2. Houndstongue; NOXIOUS. Houndstongue is a growing problem in a lot of riparian areas and is a Category 1 (that's BAD) Montana Noxious Weed. A native plant to Europe, it contains a toxin that causes liver cells to stop reproducing. And if that's not bad enough, have you ever been "licked" by a houndstongue? If you've ever come home or back to your car from a walk and found dozens of little burrs sticking to your socks, shirt, pants, waders, pretty much anything...YOU'VE BEEN LICKED! Make sure you remove the burrs before going somewhere else: these are the plant's seeds and we don't want to give houndstongue any help in spreading.

3. Spotted knapweed: NOXIOUS. By far the most infamous of Montana's noxious weeds. Category 1: 'Nuff said. If you don't recognize this one, chances are you are a noxious weed yourself.

4. Matrimony Vine; NOXIOUS. This is another one of Butte-Silver Bow's noxious weeds. A strong colonizer of mining contaminated and disturbed areas, this bushy shrub is a beautiful specimen of a noxious weed. It's bright red-orange berries are a spectacular contrast to the pretty purple flower in the photo, and it provides a great source of food and excellent habitat for a variety of song birds and small mammals in Butte, like the feral cat. However...(with noxious weeds, there's always a "however")...the reason this member of the nightshade family got its name is fairly simple: once you have it, you're married to it, so to speak. Its hard to get rid of and it has a unique penchant in the Butte area to find a crack in a vacant building (many times in occupied building's too) foundation and quickly fill the entire basement, attic or any other available living space with bush.

5. Bitterroot; Not Noxious. Also called "rock rose" the bitterroot as you should know is Montana's state flower.

6. Field bindweed (aka Morning Glory); NOXIOUS. Another pretty but dangerous plant. Field bindweed, a member of the morning glory family, forms thick mats along the ground in a lot of pastures and other disturbed landscapes. It, like knapweed and houndstongue, is a Category 1 Montana Noxious weed.

7. Plains Prickly Pear; Not Noxious. How would you like to go for a barefoot jog across a prairie full of this sticky fellow? John Colter did. One of Montana's only native succulents, this cactus has a showy yellow bloom early in the summer (June).

8. Truffula Tree; Not Noxious. For those of you who are Dr. Suess fans, here is the victim of Geisel's classic book, The Lorax. "The touch of their tufts is much softer than silk and they have the sweet smell of fresh butterfly's milk." I have yet to find one growing in Montana.

9. Leafy Spurge; NOXIOUS. Because of its ridiculous invasiveness and the even more ridiculous difficulty in controlling its infestations, Leafy Spurge just might be Public Enemy No.1 when it comes to noxious weeds. Spurge can "pop" its seeds several meters and its roots have been documented to extend as deep as 20 feet into the soil. With these two methods of invasion, spurge is one tough customer, earning it a Category 1 listing.

10. Purple Loosestrife; NOXIOUS. This is a Category 2 Montana Noxious Weed list. A riparian invader, it is also a "pretty" noxious species, another escaped European ornamental. You can see from the photo that when loosestrife finds an area it likes, nothing else stands a chance.

These are just a handful of the weeds that are marching their way across Montana. I strongly urge you to spend a few minutes on the Department of Agriculture's Montana Noxious Weeds website at . There is lots of interesting information here, as well as a list of contacts who could come to your class to help you learn more!
That's it for the quiz...
As a fun exercise to get your in-quiz-itive minds in shape for CFWEP's next test, I invite you all to take the Fish, Wildlife and Parks' easy to use, on-line Bear Identification test. Here's the link:
It's somewhat of a secret (maybe it's not), but most mountain ranges in western Montana have at least some grizzly bears. The FWP quiz is a requirement for anyone wanting to hunt black bears. But it's also a good test of your bear identification skills. Is it a black bear or a grizzly? You need an 80% to pass...See how well you do!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"Know Your Noxious Weeds" Quiz

Just for fun, below are 10 photos of plants. Identify them all and tell us which ones are listed as noxious weeds in Montana and which ones are not. (Note: they may not be on the state weeds list, but all of the noxious ones pictured below are on at least one of the 56 counties' lists.) Name and list all 10 correctly, and you win a CFWEP sticker!! Not to mention, you'll be a little bit more the wiser in the endless "War on Weeds."










Good luck! When you think you have all the answers, send them to me at (be sure to include your mailing address if you want a sticker!). I'll post the answers...and our winners, next Friday.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Noxious Weeds: Where Are They Going To Show Up NEXT??

This column we are pleased to welcome our first guest blogger: Soil scientist Tom Keck of Bozeman. Keck received his PhD in Soil Science from Montana State University in 1998 and was the lead field scientist for several years collecting the data for Silver Bow County's soil survey. He currently works in Bozeman as a Soil Scientist for his own company, Northern Rockies Soil and Water. Tom is also a valuable cooperating scientist with CFWEP, helping improve place-based science education in the Clark Fork basin as a summer teacher training instructor (see photo). If you're reading this and are a scientist living or doing research in the Clark Fork and would like to contribute a guest blog, drop me a line at . We'd love for you to help us spread science through the valley!

In the “War on Weeds”, spotted knapweed and leafy spurge stand out as the major weed control challenges in Silver Bow County. Each weed has infested thousands of acres in the county and there is potential for them to infest even greater acreages.

Weed infestation reduces property values, increases soil erosion, reduces areas’ ability to support wildlife or domestic livestock and presents tremendous weed control costs. Countywide, the government currently spends nearly $400,000 annually on weed control efforts; this does NOT include additional costs that individual landowners pay to control weeds on their own. Noxious weeds are an expensive issue to say the least!

Weed species often appear to be everywhere in infested areas. Spotted knapweed in the Butte area provides a good example. Once you learn to identify this species (pictured below), it seems to be growing everywhere you look. On closer inspection, however, you can find areas in and around Butte where spotted knapweed is not doing so well. There are many sites where it is completely missing, while in other areas, native plants are at least holding their own against the noxious invader.

An ongoing study funded by the Mile High Conservation District through the Conservation Districts Grant Program has been using field data from numerous locations in Silver Bow County to look at patterns in the distributions of spotted knapweed and leafy spurge relative to landscape, plant community and soil properties. The study looks at habitat preferences in existing infestations to gain a better understanding of how these weed species would be expected to behave on sites that have not yet been infested. The immediate goal is to find differences among habitats in the potential for future infestation by spotted knapweed or leafy spurge.

This research could ultimately lead to development of site specific strategies for weed management. In such an approach, the combination of weed control methods used for a species such as leafy spurge on a dry, rocky hillside would likely be quite different from those methods used to control spurge along a moist drainage bottom. Identifying habitat differences is a first step. While some of the results found in the current study were expected, others have been quite interesting.

Both spotted knapweed and leafy spurge originated in grasslands of Eurasia. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the highest infestation levels found in Silver Bow County were in grassland areas. Neither species is very competitive on forested or riparian (near stream) sites in our area. Woodland areas, with open Douglas-fir stands, are intermediate in terms of infestation potential. Neither weed species likes to get their feet (roots) wet for long. This explains their relative absence in consistently wet soils along streams and in other wetlands areas.

Elevation, slope steepness and slope direction (aspect) have a strong influence on the occurrence of both spotted knapweed and leafy spurge in Silver Bow County. The highest infestation levels for spotted knapweed occur below 5,800 feet in elevation while moderate infestations levels were found up to 6,600 feet. For leafy spurge, the highest infestation levels are restricted to elevations below 5,600 feet. South facing slopes (hot and dry) were the most favorable for spotted knapweed while leafy spurge was most prevalent on level to gently sloping areas (deeper soils; deposition areas). Both species appear to be least competitive on north facing slopes.

Overall, the worst leafy spurge infestations were found on very deep well drained (normally dry) soils along drainage corridors. This was especially true where basin wild rye was the primary grass species present. The second most common occurrence was on droughty, shallow soils on volcanic hills such as along portions of I-90 in northwestern Silver Bow County. While leafy spurge fairs poorly on soils formed from decomposed granite, spotted knapweed does especially well on the very deep, coarse textured granite soils common in the Summit Valley.

Those are just a few of many results. At the conclusion of this work, maps will be produced through the Butte-Silver Bow GIS Department showing infestation potential throughout the county. This information will be used to target weed control activities and to support future research on site specific weed control strategies.

As a landowner or tenant, you should be aware of noxious weeds growing on your property. Know how to identify weeds, at least spotted knapweed (below left) and leafy spurge (below right). Scout your property regularly and note their presence if you find them. Pay special attention to where they are growing and begin weed control or encourage the landowner to begin weed control as soon as possible. Remember, early detection and control is by far the most cost effective means to fight noxious weeds. The sooner you get them, the less likely they will be to spread out of control. There is a reason they call them invasive: Weeds infestations will continue to grow if left unchecked and the cost of control grows with them the longer you wait to take action. For more information, please contact the Butte-Silver Bow Weed Control Office at 497-6460 or