Gardeners can help manage invasive weeds

Celebrate Colorado Weed Awareness Week by checking your garden for noxious weeds like this invasive ornamental called Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis).

dames-rocket-blogGov. Bill Ritter proclaimed June 12-17 as Colorado Weed Awareness Week to bring attention to the serious state-wide issue of noxious weeds in our environment and to challenge us all to be better stewards of our lands.

Non-native plants, also called noxious weeds, can take hold and displace native plants. Opportunistic invasive plants, like yellow toadflax and Russian knapweed, crowd out native plant species, damage wildlife habitat and force wildlife to change their foraging habits. In addition, noxious weeds affect property values and land productivity.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Noxious Weed Program works to keep new invasive plants out of the state while working to eradicate and manage the current noxious weed population.

Gardeners can help by becoming familiar with Colorado’s noxious weeds on the Department of Ag’s website or by purchasing the Noxious Weeds of Colorado booklet found on the Colorado Weed Management Association website.

I’m sure you’ll be surprised to see some of the weeds on that list. Many invasive plants started out as non-native ornamentals planted in backyard gardens. But once they escaped into native plant communities, they started to take over. Because of their ability to spread quickly, invasive ornamentals can choke out native plants and ultimately change an entire ecosystem.

When invasive plants get a foothold on an area, they can cause irreparable agricultural or environmental damage. One nonnative species that’s causing harm to Colorado’s wetlands and riparian areas is Saltcedar (Tamarix). This thirsty invasive is pushing out the native trees that provide bird and wildlife habitat.

Invasive ornamentals are extremely difficult to eradicate once they escape from cultivation. Here are some easy actions gardeners can take to prevent the spread of invasive species:

1.  Do some research. Familiarize yourself with the plants on Colorado’s noxious weed list. Learn to recognize invasive ornamentals in their different stages of development.

2.  Take a plant inventory. Review what’s growing in your garden and make sure you know what each plant is. Compare any unknown plants to your state’s invasive weed list.

3.  Take action. Remove invasive ornamentals by pulling or using chemical means. Double-bag plants for disposal or trash removal. Replant the area with native plants.

4.  Watch for their return. Some invasives reseed and grow in the same season; others may appear the next growing season.

Additional tips for managing invasive ornamentals can be found in The Colorado Gardener’s Companion: An Insider’s Guide to Gardening in the Centennial State.


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