Noxious weeds are returning to Chaffee County, said Buena Vista code enforcement officer Grant Bryans.
As the weeds begin to bloom and make themselves known, Bryans will begin issuing notices to landowners who have weeds on their property that the state department of agriculture have mandated to be removed.
In addition, “The town has identified some areas in our parks” with noxious weeds and is entering its second season of eradication.
The first notifications won’t carry any penalty – it’s about alerting residents who may not be aware of the difference between some more benign weeds and the plants named in the Noxious Weed act that are actually illegal to cultivate.
“We want the cooperation with the citizens on this,” Bryans said. “If you see something, a call or an email would be great.”
For some of these invasive, rapidly propagating plants, it can take 5 seasons of dedicated work to rid areas of the weeds, he said.
Spreading out tens of thousands of seeds per year, with the ability to grow quickly and thrive in arid terrain, these non-native plants can take over the habitats of native plants, greatly reducing the natural biodiversity in an area.
The town and the county’s Weed Department have identified Elongated Mustard, Yellow Toadflax, Dalmatian Toadflax, Myrtle Spurge, several invasive species of Thistle and Common Mullein as growing in northern Chaffee County.
“We have observed significant increases in Dalmatian Toadflax across the infested region,” said Kayla Malone, the supervisor for Chaffee County’s Noxious Weed program. “This is likely driven by multiple factors, most significantly the increased moisture that Colorado has experience this winter and spring.”
The Department of Agriculture breaks its list of 81 weeds designated as noxious into three lists based on the danger they pose to native plant ecosystems.
“The threats to the county are regionally specific, with very different concerns in different regions,” Malone said. “Dalmatian and Yellow Toadflax are common in BV, as are Oxeye Daisy (all over the golf course) and some Scentless Chamomile.
“In the southern part of the county we have significant populations of Hoary Cress, some Perennial Pepperweed and Common Teasel, along with Yellow Toadflax as well,” Malone said.
Common weeds like Canada Thistle, Cheat Grass, Common Mullein and Field Bindweed can be found across the entire valley, she said.
Among the 25 List A species – those in most urgent need of eradication – Myrtle Spurge and Elongated Mustard grow in the Arkansas Valley.
Myrtle Spurge resembles a succulent like aloe, albeit with its fleshy leaves spiraling out from long, spidery stems. Bryans says the plant was actually encouraged to be planted in Front Range gardens as a xeriscaping-friendly ornamental plant.
The plant is poisonous if ingested, and the department of agriculture recommends wearing gloves, long sleeves and eye protection when handling the plant.
The plant is best removed mechanically – that is, by pulling it out by hand – before seeds set. Bryans recommends putting a trash bag over the plant before pulling it to contain any seeds it may launch.
Elongated Mustard, a wiry perennial that can grow up to 3 feet tall, with small, bright yellow four-petal flowers.
“Site monitoring should be carried out for at least 10 years after the last flowering adult plants have been eliminated,” the department of agriculture’s fact sheet on the plant reads.
List B plants are also mandated by law to be eradicated, contained or suppressed. In Buena Vista, we have Dalmatian and Yellow Toadflax from this list.
A single plant can produce 500,000 seeds in a year. Bryans warned that the plant’s broad, creeping root structure can be difficult to pull up all at once.
The department of agriculture says to pull the weeds every year for 5 or 6 years to fully deplete the root system. Then monitor the site for 10-15 years afterwards.
The toadflaxes prefer rocky, loose soil, making the disturbed soil of recent construction areas prime growing grounds for the plant, which can grow as high as 3 feet and has yellow flowers that look like a snapdragon, with heart-shaped leaves that wrap around its straight stems.
Bryans said that Sunset Vista IV has been a trouble spot for Toadflax.
List B also has a variety of thistle plants in its list, and Bryans said that some of those have made their way to Chaffee County as well.
Finally, List C plants designated by the Act are still encouraged to be eliminated, but are on the lowest priority. The big one for BV in this category is Common Mullein.
The plant can be seen growing up and down the railroad tracks, with a tall flowered stalk with a slightly hairy-looking texture growing straight up out of a large rosette of broad leaves.
“Hand pull or dig when soil is moist, prior to flowering and seed production can be effective,” the department of agriculture says. “If flowers are present, bag specimens carefully so as not to scatter any potential seeds. The key to effective control is to prevent seed production and/or spread.”
The state has a mobile phone application to help identify and report the locations of noxious weeds. The app can be found on the Apple app store and Google Play under the name “Colorado Noxious Weeds.”
Also, residents can contact Bryans at town hall for tips on locations of noxious weeds.
Bryans suggests visiting the Department of Agriculture’s website on noxious weeds, where you can find fact sheets on all the weeds listed in the Act, as well as advice on how to treat the plants mechanically (pulling them up or burning them), biologically (with insects that are raised at the Department’s insectary in Palisade) or culturally (planting native plants to counteract the weeds’ spread).
The fact sheets also list the types of herbicide that are effective against the weeds.