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Hawkweed spotted on Lolo Pass
A Mean Seed Machine posted on 07/02/2011
The devil is in the petals.

Orange hawkweed, also known as devil’s paintbrush, has been spotted along Lolo Pass Road, in a meadow on Burnt Lake trail, and most recently in the Wildcat Mountain and Welches areas.

This devilishly showy alpine flower from Europe is capable of growing at higher elevations which means that the wilderness area around Mount Hood are at risk if this invasive plant takes hold.

“Orange hawkweed is a highly invasive, non-native plant that invades forest and alpine meadows where it displaces and can exclude native plants from an area,” said David Lebo, botanist with the U.S. Forest Service. “This could adversely impact our meadow ecosystems.”

The vibrant orange-red flowers are easy to spot now while they’re in bloom. The flowers are clustered at the top of a leafless stem up to 12 inches tall. Stiff, black hairs cover the flower stems and the entire plant contains a milky juice. The multiple flowers per stem can be used to distinguish hawkweeds from many look-alike plants.

“Talk about being designed for invasion,” said Russ Plaeger, watershed coordinator for the Sandy River Basin Watershed Council. “This mean orange seed machine can produce thousands of seeds, release chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants, and spread by runners too. While you might be happy if your strawberries were that successful, you don’t want hawkweed to take over your yard, pasture, or openings in the forest.”

A solitary, devilish flower can paint an entire area, producing 600 to 45,000 seeds. Hawkweed also releases allelopathic biochemicals into the soil. These compounds inhibit the growth and survival of native plants.

Once established, hawkweed quickly develops into a patch that continues to expand until it covers a site with a solid mat of leaf rosettes. This invader can dominate pastures, lawns and roadsides. It is unpalatable to livestock and crowds out more desirable species.

Orange hawkweed was one of the plants featured at the watershed council’s Welches workshop in June. One participant called in the following day to alert the council to what she saw that looked like hawkweed.

“It’s really great that people are on the lookout and call in when they see one of the new invasive plants,” Plaeger said. “Because this is a high priority species we can provide spraying at no cost to the landowner. That will prevent lots of problems and avoid more costly efforts in the future.”

To utilize the free herbicide program contact Plaeger at 503-668-1646, or by mail to the SRBWC, PO Box 868, Sandy 97055.

“We encourage people to take advantage of the free program that is being offered by the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District and Oregon Department of Agriculture,” Plaeger said.

CONTROL
Mowing is not recommended because the plants quickly flower again. If plants have flowered, remove the flower heads, bag them, and put them in the trash because they can still produce seeds after they’ve been cut. The fibrous roots and runners can resprout if left in the ground or in a compost pile.

by Larry Berteau/MT
Weather

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