A letter to our neighbors in Coal Creek Canyon from Joelle, a local resident.
I wanted to share information about noxious weeds with you, a problem that affects us all. I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons why I live here in the mountains is because of the natural beauty. We are blessed to be surrounded by a variety of trees, shrubs and grasses that live and thrive at this higher elevation. But, we are on the verge of being invaded by species that don’t belong.
I am talking about noxious weeds. Noxious weeds are non-native plants that disrupt our native vegetation and ecosystems. Noxious weeds threaten our drinking water supply, agricultural crops, pasture lands and native habitats. Not just ordinary weeds, but alien plants that come in and take over (not just ‘a plant out of place’). They are a problem is because they grow so easily, taking over nutrients and water, crowding out native plants. And, they are negatively affecting the natural beauty of our canyon. Often, they have no natural controls, sometimes producing thousands of seeds per plant, or reproducing in such a way that our native plants cannot compete with.
Colorado State Department of Agriculture created regulations to control noxious weeds enabling counties to implement management programs in order to reclaim infested acres and protect weed-free land. But the counties can only do so much, and really it is up to us to manage our own properties.
The weeds I am most concerned about in the mid-Coal Creek Canyon area include:
–Green, purple or brown seed heads. Pull before seed heads drop.
Also known as Downy brome, this annual grass is usually between 4-30” tall, covered with soft hairs giving a downy feel. This species is known for early emergence and ‘cheating’ other vegetation out of moisture. Mature flower heads are a nuisance, becoming embedded in clothing and fur. Dense stands are also a fire hazard.
-Pull from root.
This perennial plant tends to be 1-5’ tall, erect, with lance-shaped, spine tipped leaves. This thistle is very aggressive, reproducing by seed as well as an extensive, fleshy, creeping root system. Flowers are small, often in groups, pink to purple, June through August.
-Clip heads before it goes to seed.
This perennial thistle is a biennial that grows 2-6’ tall, producing in its first-year large, dark green, deeply lobed rosettes (often whitish mid-rib) with spiny edges. In its second season, this thistle produces several large showy purplish pink flower heads with pinecone-like prickly bracts below. This is a highly competitive weed, invading disturbed areas and producing up to 20,000 seeds per plant.
-Clip heads before it goes to seed.
Mullein is a biennial forb producing a fuzzy soft rosette in its first year, then a single stout stem covered with yellow flowers 2-5’ tall in its second year. The seeds from this plant can stay viable for over 80 years.
I know it seems like an overwhelming chore, but we can work together to reduce the occurrence of these noxious weeds. There are many ways we can we can do this- pulling, spraying a chemical specific for a particular weed, and then over-seeding with native plants are suggestions that homeowners can use. The more we can reduce the seeds in our soil the more we can arrest this situation. The problem is if we don’t address this, more seeds will develop and be released, more noxious weeds will spread and they don’t stop at property lines! This is why it is crucial that we all work together!
What can you do now?
- Clip the flower heads of the musk thistle.
- Pull cheatgrass (can be mowed before it goes to seed).
- Canada thistle will need to be pulled (the roots removed) to really make an impact, (or, at least, clipping the flower heads to reduce the development of new seeds).
These are just a few suggestions. Also, there are weed sprays effective for many of these plants. Please consider what you will do to reduce the weeds on your property, and work with me to mitigate the weeds we have in the canyon. And remember, this is an ongoing thing. As we reduce the seedbank in the soil, our work should get easier, especially if we work together!
We do have a few other plants that could potentially become a problem in our area, these are others that we will watch out for:
• Scentless Chamomile & Oxeye Daisy
• Wild Alyssum
For more information, please visit the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Noxious weed list, https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/agconservation/noxious-weed-species, your county extension office or feel free to contact me. Let’s work together to eradicate/reduce the spread of noxious plants in Coal Creek Canyon!
I look forward to working with you to preserve the natural beauty of our canyon, supporting and allowing the native plants to flourish and wish to be enjoying this wonderful place with you for many years to come!