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Pam Burke community@havredailynews.com North-central Montanans have four new invasive weeds to help control, including one that threatens wetlands, but a new smart phone app is available to aid the fight. Of the four weeds, the towering common phragmites is the one with an infestation concentrated in the northcentral area. Pronounced “frag-MY-teez,” this tall, grass-like reed can grow anywhere but prefers moist soil — irrigation and roadside ditches, fishing holes and banks along waterways, including Sage Creek and Milk River, which have established stands of phragmites. Thought to be first introduced to eastern North America, as an exotic ornamental, Hill County Weed District Coordinator Terry Turner said, phragmites quickly spread up and down the east coast of the U.S. and Canada, and started spreading west. A native phragnites grows in North America, Turner said, but this exotic subspecies has no natural parasites or competition to keep it in check. On a recent trip from Philadelphia to New Jersey, he said, he saw roadsides choked with the invasive subspecies. The plant has spread to much of Europe, and a Youtube search for “Russian amphibious racing” is a quick way to bring up videos that show waterways infested with the weed, he added. Commonly growing from 6 to 15 feet

FARM & RANCH tall, the exotic phragmites, a perennial, can spread from seeds, Turner said, but it propagates vigorously from runners and roots. He said he has seen runners — with a new shoot every 12 inches — grow as long as 30 feet before putting down a new root. “It doesn’t put down roots until it runs out of energy,” he said. The weed has a full, plume-like head, which has a purple hue that can start out dark but lightens to tan as the seeds ripen and age. The native subspecies is more stubble-colored, Turner said. The lower leaf sheaths of the exotic phragmites, a handout from Montana State University Extension says, are attached tightly, and when the sheaths are removed the stem is dull green or tan. The stems themselves are dull and rough with little ridges, and they persist through to the next growing season. The plant grows in dense stands, Turner said, adding that when he was in the middle of a stand of phragmites he leaned forward, pushing his full weight into the growth of plants, and they held him upright. The dense growth will choke out native plant species and habitat for native wildlife, and cut off access to water ways for animals and people. He said he has also noticed that the phragmites stands also create a pest hazard, attracting large numbers of aphids and wasps. In areas of the country where phragmites is widespread, the dense stands have made mosquito control efforts close to impossible

unless using aerial spraying, he said. The weed was first identified in Phillips County along the reservoir of Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge. That was in 2014, he said, and it was added to the state noxious weed list the following year “We have about nine acres of it that we know of,” Turner said, with four acres in Hill County, five in Blaine and a small patch in Liberty County that hasn’t been fully assessed. In the end, Turner added, it has been determined that the weed came in with ballast quarried in Washington state for BNSF Railway and used for track improvements along the Hi-Line. He said he was notified of the widespread infestation by BNSF employees who noticed the new plant growing around railroad construction areas. BNSF has done some spraying on their routes, but the plant has spread off BNSF property. Turner said he notified county weed districts along the Hi-Line west and east of Hill County that the ballast is the source of the weed, and said he notified BNSF about being more thorough spraying the railroad property and rights of way. In Hill County, the primary known Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry Phragmites, a noxious weed that has taken root in north-central Montana, stands in snow along a drainage ditch north of BNSF railroad tracks Dec. 26 in Havre.

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Photo courtesy Prof Matt Lavin-2008/Bozeman, Montana, USA - CC BY-SA 2.0 Ventenata seeds display their twisted and bent awn. handout says, and the shallow root system increase susceptibility to soil erosion. The plant, Turner said, spreads 85 percent quicker than cheatgrass and the fire capacity is as bad or worse because the plant grows taller, at 6 to 18 inches. “It’ll be on the list, guaranteed,” Turner said. Management Turner said that anyone can call their weed control district for help in identifying, treating and managing noxious weeds. County extension offices have resources to help identify and manage them, as well. One of the keys to managing or preventing infestations of invasive species is early identification, and Turner said a new smart phone app can help get this done in a timely fashion. The EDDMapSWest app, developed by and available free for download from the University of Georgia, is a tool specifically created to help control invasive plant species. App users can take and submit a photo of a noxious weed, or one they suspect might be an invasive species, and submit it to the app.

That photo and the GIS location are forwarded to state weed coordinators like Turner, who can identify the plant either from the photo or by going to its exact location and viewing it in person — and steps can be taken to treat the weed if needed. “The state’s requiring us,” Turner said, “like for my fire grant that I got for Beaver Creek Park, the East Fork Fire — they’re requiring me to map everything in that with EDDMapS.” EDDMapS West site says the app was originally developed, and launched in 2010, for the six Missouri River Watershed Coalition headwater states of Montana, Colorado, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming in September 2010. Support from the Montana Noxious Weed Trust Fund and the U.S. Forest Service, along with widespread interest in the West helped expand the app to include Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington in 2011. It takes everybody helping to combat invasive species, Turner said. “The nice thing about Hill County and the people in Hill County, they’re really con-

Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry Terry Turner discusses invasive plant species Jan. 22 at the Hill County Weed and Mosquito District Office in Havre. cerned about weeds, so I have a lot of people out there helping ... they’ll see that stuff and they can’t get to it that day, they give me a call and I’ll go out there and I’ll take care of it,” he said. “It takes a lot of cooperation to keep ahead of this stuff.” —— Hill County Weed Control Coordinator Terry Turner can be reached at 265-4453.

All Montana weed control district contact information can be found online at https:// www.mtweed.org/weeds/weed-districts/. EDDMapSWest can be found online at https://www.eddmaps.org/west/. Video that shows phragmites infestations i n Ru s s i a , h t t p s : / / w w w. yo u t u b e. c o m / watch?v=ZoxlYrSO4m4/.


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Noxious: Turner: Medusahead is expected to be designated noxious this year n Continued from page 3 grow to small-tree size, and medusahead wildrye were added to the state noxious weed list with the 2017 update, and the buckthorn is a plant Havreites in particular need to be on the lookout for. Common buckthorn and its dark-berry fruit look very similar to chokecherries, Turner said, but the buckthorn berries will cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea if eaten. A mature buckthorn was discovered in the Elks Park near Havre High School last summer by a pair of boys, one of whom got sick from eating the berries. Turner said the boys’ father contacted him right away, and he identified the tree then contacted the Havre Parks and Recreation Office. Parks employees responded immediately, Turner said, cutting down the tree and treating it with the appropriate herbicide. Buckthorn reproduces only by seeds, an MSU Extension handout says, but birds and small mammals that eat the seeds can spread the plants. The shrub also is purchased or replanted as an ornamental shrub, Turner said, so people should take a second look at their shrubs to see if they have this one. Turner said the most distinctive identifier that sets the common buckthorn apart from the chokecherry and other buckthorn shrubs is that when the brown to gray outer bark is scraped, it reveals a vibrant orange to yellow inner bark. Also, the tips of twigs have short, sharp thorns. The Extension handout says the leaves are

dark green, glossy and oval-shaped with finely-toothed edges. Not all of the common blackthorn shrubs will produce flowers and fruit, but those that do display clusters of yellowish-green, four-petal flowers. Medusahead wildrye has been identified in two locations in Sanders and Lake counties in the western side of the state, Turner said, but it’s an important one to track. It could get established easily because people might mistake it for foxtail barley. Once established, the plant takes over an area, forming a near monoculture and degrading wildlife and livestock habitat, an Extension handout says, even pushing out cheatgrass. A distinguishing characteristic of this bunch grass is the long awns, or bristle-like hairs on the seed heads, which on the medusahead are twisted in appearance, the handout says. The plant matures and dries out in mid- to late-summer, and unlike foxtail the seed head stays intact. The plant is slow to decay and accumulated litter can reduce other plants’ ability to grow and increase fire hazard. The unrecognized invasion A non-native winter annual grass, Ventenata is new to Montana, Turner said, and though it isn’t on the noxious weed list, the petition has been made for that change in status. “This Ventenata, it’s brand new. We haven’t ever looked for it, but everybody

Courtesy of Terry Turner Phragmites is burned during weed control activities by Hill County Weed District Coordinator Terry Turner. Turner estimated plants, growing out of a deep ditch, were up to 13 feet tall. Medusahead wildrye seed heads

Photo courtesy Steve Dewey, Utah State University, Bugwood.org

that’s been looking for it is finding it,” Turner said. Ventenata can be confused with cheatgrass and Japanese brome with similar awns, but its awns are bent and twisted and the plant doesn’t get the reddish-purple tint of

cheatgrass, an Extention handout says. Ventenata has a .3-inch ligule, the membranous growth at the junction of a leaf and stalk, and its stems have reddish-black nodes. Livestock and wildlife find the plant unpalatable as it matures, reducing forage, the

infestations are in Gildford along Sage Creek and around the rail yard in Havre. In Blaine County, the known infestations are located at about one mile and three miles into the county from the border with Hill County. “There’s a good possibility that it’s going down Sage Creek,” he said, “and a good possibility that it’s all the way to Glasgow along the Milk with all the flooding we’ve had.”

Control methods include spraying and burning, but Turner said people should notify his office or their county’s weed control district if they think they have found the plant. Weed district personnel will come in to confirm that identification and treat the infestation. But cost of treatment can be quite high, Turner said, estimating the cost at $1,100 to

Photo courtesy Terry Turner, Hill County Weed District Coordinator Common buckthorn displays its orange inner bark when the outer bark is pealed away.

$1,400 per acre if it were to get into a major body of water like Fresno or Beaver Creek reservoirs. This bill is paid for with taxpayer money, he said. Spraying also requires an aquatic spray license, and burning the plants is dangerous because they burn very hot, Turner said, with

flames that can reach almost double the plant height. The fire puts out a thick black smoke. “It’s like burning tires,” he said.

Two official noxious weeds Common buckthorn shrub, which can

■ See Noxious Page 10


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Noxious: Turner: Medusahead is expected to be designated noxious this year n Continued from page 3 grow to small-tree size, and medusahead wildrye were added to the state noxious weed list with the 2017 update, and the buckthorn is a plant Havreites in particular need to be on the lookout for. Common buckthorn and its dark-berry fruit look very similar to chokecherries, Turner said, but the buckthorn berries will cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea if eaten. A mature buckthorn was discovered in the Elks Park near Havre High School last summer by a pair of boys, one of whom got sick from eating the berries. Turner said the boys’ father contacted him right away, and he identified the tree then contacted the Havre Parks and Recreation Office. Parks employees responded immediately, Turner said, cutting down the tree and treating it with the appropriate herbicide. Buckthorn reproduces only by seeds, an MSU Extension handout says, but birds and small mammals that eat the seeds can spread the plants. The shrub also is purchased or replanted as an ornamental shrub, Turner said, so people should take a second look at their shrubs to see if they have this one. Turner said the most distinctive identifier that sets the common buckthorn apart from the chokecherry and other buckthorn shrubs is that when the brown to gray outer bark is scraped, it reveals a vibrant orange to yellow inner bark. Also, the tips of twigs have short, sharp thorns. The Extension handout says the leaves are

dark green, glossy and oval-shaped with finely-toothed edges. Not all of the common blackthorn shrubs will produce flowers and fruit, but those that do display clusters of yellowish-green, four-petal flowers. Medusahead wildrye has been identified in two locations in Sanders and Lake counties in the western side of the state, Turner said, but it’s an important one to track. It could get established easily because people might mistake it for foxtail barley. Once established, the plant takes over an area, forming a near monoculture and degrading wildlife and livestock habitat, an Extension handout says, even pushing out cheatgrass. A distinguishing characteristic of this bunch grass is the long awns, or bristle-like hairs on the seed heads, which on the medusahead are twisted in appearance, the handout says. The plant matures and dries out in mid- to late-summer, and unlike foxtail the seed head stays intact. The plant is slow to decay and accumulated litter can reduce other plants’ ability to grow and increase fire hazard. The unrecognized invasion A non-native winter annual grass, Ventenata is new to Montana, Turner said, and though it isn’t on the noxious weed list, the petition has been made for that change in status. “This Ventenata, it’s brand new. We haven’t ever looked for it, but everybody

Courtesy of Terry Turner Phragmites is burned during weed control activities by Hill County Weed District Coordinator Terry Turner. Turner estimated plants, growing out of a deep ditch, were up to 13 feet tall. Medusahead wildrye seed heads

Photo courtesy Steve Dewey, Utah State University, Bugwood.org

that’s been looking for it is finding it,” Turner said. Ventenata can be confused with cheatgrass and Japanese brome with similar awns, but its awns are bent and twisted and the plant doesn’t get the reddish-purple tint of

cheatgrass, an Extention handout says. Ventenata has a .3-inch ligule, the membranous growth at the junction of a leaf and stalk, and its stems have reddish-black nodes. Livestock and wildlife find the plant unpalatable as it matures, reducing forage, the

infestations are in Gildford along Sage Creek and around the rail yard in Havre. In Blaine County, the known infestations are located at about one mile and three miles into the county from the border with Hill County. “There’s a good possibility that it’s going down Sage Creek,” he said, “and a good possibility that it’s all the way to Glasgow along the Milk with all the flooding we’ve had.”

Control methods include spraying and burning, but Turner said people should notify his office or their county’s weed control district if they think they have found the plant. Weed district personnel will come in to confirm that identification and treat the infestation. But cost of treatment can be quite high, Turner said, estimating the cost at $1,100 to

Photo courtesy Terry Turner, Hill County Weed District Coordinator Common buckthorn displays its orange inner bark when the outer bark is pealed away.

$1,400 per acre if it were to get into a major body of water like Fresno or Beaver Creek reservoirs. This bill is paid for with taxpayer money, he said. Spraying also requires an aquatic spray license, and burning the plants is dangerous because they burn very hot, Turner said, with

flames that can reach almost double the plant height. The fire puts out a thick black smoke. “It’s like burning tires,” he said.

Two official noxious weeds Common buckthorn shrub, which can

■ See Noxious Page 10


2

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February 2019

Pam Burke community@havredailynews.com North-central Montanans have four new invasive weeds to help control, including one that threatens wetlands, but a new smart phone app is available to aid the fight. Of the four weeds, the towering common phragmites is the one with an infestation concentrated in the northcentral area. Pronounced “frag-MY-teez,” this tall, grass-like reed can grow anywhere but prefers moist soil — irrigation and roadside ditches, fishing holes and banks along waterways, including Sage Creek and Milk River, which have established stands of phragmites. Thought to be first introduced to eastern North America, as an exotic ornamental, Hill County Weed District Coordinator Terry Turner said, phragmites quickly spread up and down the east coast of the U.S. and Canada, and started spreading west. A native phragnites grows in North America, Turner said, but this exotic subspecies has no natural parasites or competition to keep it in check. On a recent trip from Philadelphia to New Jersey, he said, he saw roadsides choked with the invasive subspecies. The plant has spread to much of Europe, and a Youtube search for “Russian amphibious racing” is a quick way to bring up videos that show waterways infested with the weed, he added. Commonly growing from 6 to 15 feet

FARM & RANCH tall, the exotic phragmites, a perennial, can spread from seeds, Turner said, but it propagates vigorously from runners and roots. He said he has seen runners — with a new shoot every 12 inches — grow as long as 30 feet before putting down a new root. “It doesn’t put down roots until it runs out of energy,” he said. The weed has a full, plume-like head, which has a purple hue that can start out dark but lightens to tan as the seeds ripen and age. The native subspecies is more stubble-colored, Turner said. The lower leaf sheaths of the exotic phragmites, a handout from Montana State University Extension says, are attached tightly, and when the sheaths are removed the stem is dull green or tan. The stems themselves are dull and rough with little ridges, and they persist through to the next growing season. The plant grows in dense stands, Turner said, adding that when he was in the middle of a stand of phragmites he leaned forward, pushing his full weight into the growth of plants, and they held him upright. The dense growth will choke out native plant species and habitat for native wildlife, and cut off access to water ways for animals and people. He said he has also noticed that the phragmites stands also create a pest hazard, attracting large numbers of aphids and wasps. In areas of the country where phragmites is widespread, the dense stands have made mosquito control efforts close to impossible

unless using aerial spraying, he said. The weed was first identified in Phillips County along the reservoir of Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge. That was in 2014, he said, and it was added to the state noxious weed list the following year “We have about nine acres of it that we know of,” Turner said, with four acres in Hill County, five in Blaine and a small patch in Liberty County that hasn’t been fully assessed. In the end, Turner added, it has been determined that the weed came in with ballast quarried in Washington state for BNSF Railway and used for track improvements along the Hi-Line. He said he was notified of the widespread infestation by BNSF employees who noticed the new plant growing around railroad construction areas. BNSF has done some spraying on their routes, but the plant has spread off BNSF property. Turner said he notified county weed districts along the Hi-Line west and east of Hill County that the ballast is the source of the weed, and said he notified BNSF about being more thorough spraying the railroad property and rights of way. In Hill County, the primary known Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry Phragmites, a noxious weed that has taken root in north-central Montana, stands in snow along a drainage ditch north of BNSF railroad tracks Dec. 26 in Havre.

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Photo courtesy Prof Matt Lavin-2008/Bozeman, Montana, USA - CC BY-SA 2.0 Ventenata seeds display their twisted and bent awn. handout says, and the shallow root system increase susceptibility to soil erosion. The plant, Turner said, spreads 85 percent quicker than cheatgrass and the fire capacity is as bad or worse because the plant grows taller, at 6 to 18 inches. “It’ll be on the list, guaranteed,” Turner said. Management Turner said that anyone can call their weed control district for help in identifying, treating and managing noxious weeds. County extension offices have resources to help identify and manage them, as well. One of the keys to managing or preventing infestations of invasive species is early identification, and Turner said a new smart phone app can help get this done in a timely fashion. The EDDMapSWest app, developed by and available free for download from the University of Georgia, is a tool specifically created to help control invasive plant species. App users can take and submit a photo of a noxious weed, or one they suspect might be an invasive species, and submit it to the app.

That photo and the GIS location are forwarded to state weed coordinators like Turner, who can identify the plant either from the photo or by going to its exact location and viewing it in person — and steps can be taken to treat the weed if needed. “The state’s requiring us,” Turner said, “like for my fire grant that I got for Beaver Creek Park, the East Fork Fire — they’re requiring me to map everything in that with EDDMapS.” EDDMapS West site says the app was originally developed, and launched in 2010, for the six Missouri River Watershed Coalition headwater states of Montana, Colorado, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming in September 2010. Support from the Montana Noxious Weed Trust Fund and the U.S. Forest Service, along with widespread interest in the West helped expand the app to include Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington in 2011. It takes everybody helping to combat invasive species, Turner said. “The nice thing about Hill County and the people in Hill County, they’re really con-

Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry Terry Turner discusses invasive plant species Jan. 22 at the Hill County Weed and Mosquito District Office in Havre. cerned about weeds, so I have a lot of people out there helping ... they’ll see that stuff and they can’t get to it that day, they give me a call and I’ll go out there and I’ll take care of it,” he said. “It takes a lot of cooperation to keep ahead of this stuff.” —— Hill County Weed Control Coordinator Terry Turner can be reached at 265-4453.

All Montana weed control district contact information can be found online at https:// www.mtweed.org/weeds/weed-districts/. EDDMapSWest can be found online at https://www.eddmaps.org/west/. Video that shows phragmites infestations i n Ru s s i a , h t t p s : / / w w w. yo u t u b e. c o m / watch?v=ZoxlYrSO4m4/.


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