Common Central Oregon weeds

Pulling weeds is a critical operation

By Liz Douville / For The Bulletin

Published Aug 5, 2014 at 12:08AM

The days of summer are passing far too quickly for me. Already I’m doing the woulda, coulda, shoulda guilt trip. In particular I am thinking about the group annual weed pull held in June that I missed. It always sounds like a great event, and the truth is, it’s always more fun to pull someone else’s weeds or clean someone else’s house than it is to do your own.

To refresh your memory, the Deschutes County Weed Advisory Board and Let’s Pull Together event organizers schedule the annual event to pull noxious weeds.

The eradication event is a partnership with city and county governments, neighborhood and homeowner associations, the U.S. Forest Service, state parks, local businesses and the dedicated help of volunteers.

It is considered a family event. What better hands-on way to teach environmental awareness? In June, 10 weed-pull sites were scheduled from La Pine to Sisters, several in Redmond, the Borden Beck Wildlife Preserve west of Terrebonne, plus many sites in Bend. The eye-opener for me is how extensive the eradication area is. The volunteers are rewarded for their hard work with a lunch, beverages and prizes. I am sure everyone goes home with the feeling of a job well done.

So, what is a noxious weed and why should we care about eradication?

A noxious weed is a nonnative aggressive plant brought to the U.S., mainly from Europe and Asia. Although not common in our Central Oregon area, the Himalayan blackberry was originally imported for fruit and for live fencing. Anyone living in Western Oregon can tell you how that ended; it grows rampant over much of the Pacific Northwest.

Noxious weeds crowd out and rob native plants of water, nutrients and light. They increase soil erosion, and some are toxic to humans and livestock. Humans have been poisoned by Western water hemlock, thinking it was wild parsley. Many a bike tire has been ruined by puncturevine, a prostrate annual that blooms from July to October. The flowers are small and yellow. The fruit is a woody, spikey bur that is sharp enough to puncture a tire.

When you look at weed seed viability charts, you can begin to understand the importance of the annual Let’s Pull Together campaign.

The knapweeds, both spotted and diffuse, can produce up to 25,000 seeds per year and remain viable in the soil for up to eight years.

Dalmatian toadflax, the perennial that looks similar to the garden snapdragon, can produce up to 500,000 seeds per year and remain viable in the soil for up to 10 years.

Common weeds in our backyard gardens such as lambsquarter can produce more than 500,000 seeds per plant, according to Jed Colquhoun, former Oregon State University weed specialist, and can remain viable for up to four decades.

Field bindweed, the weed that has tendrils that wrap around adjacent plants, has a viability of more than 50 years.

The mustards are long-lived. Seeds excavated from a monastery in Denmark were dated to be 600 years old, and 11 of them germinated. Most commonly, mustard seeds last for decades.

Perennial ryegrass has a viability of up to three years. Annual ryegrass has a viability of up to nine years.

All of the above are good examples of why we should do a regular weed-pulling in our own backyard. To make weeding more fun, take a trip to your local thrift store and look for a sizable wicker basket to tuck in the garden. They are great for a quick pull and toss. Several years ago I kept a basket on my route to get mail and the paper. It is so easy to pull a weed and toss it in the basket. Eventually the basket filled and the contents were consigned to the yard-debris container.

— Reporter: douville@bendbroadband.com