PACIFIC COUNTY — There is a certain order to things. Every year around this time, dark green shoots erupt from the earth, in the same spots from which they emerged in years prior. These little green flags flying in the breeze signal the start of a new year in the worlds of plants. Soon, the unmistakable message that spring is here will be blasted from the blazing yellow trumpets that sit atop those green stems. They are the daffodils; a beloved and welcome harbinger to the eruption of life and color that will soon follow.
As the daffodils wake from their hibernation, we should take a moment to appreciate their beauty and also to recognize that soon we will see an explosion of plant growth, and that, sadly, much of that growth will be in the form of invasive plants and noxious weeds. Unlike daffodils, noxious weeds are plants that will damage and can even destroy the ecosystem in which they are established. Invasive plants can be deemed “noxious weeds” for various reasons (e.g. animal toxicity, aggressive reproduction, threat to native species/agriculture, etc.), but all of them share the potential to cause harm to people, wildlife, or habitat in one form or another.
Some of these noxious weeds are easy to spot because they are ugly, or they make you sneeze, or they are pokey. For example, gorse (Ulex Europaeus), a Class B noxious weed, is a hideous looking plant that anybody North of Ocean Park can tell you all about. Gorse is dangerous for multiple reasons (fire danger, habitat loss, property devaluation, physical injury) and you can tell that it is nasty stuff just by looking at it. (If you still aren’t sure, try touching it. You will regret it). Gorse has long spikes that will easily penetrate even the best pair of Carhartts. For these reasons, the Pacific County Noxious Weed Control Board has designated gorse as a “county-select” weed, making control efforts by property owners mandatory.
Sometimes the bad guys are not as easy to spot. Many of them are beautiful and people will transplant them in an attempt at cultivation in a garden or in landscaping. It is no surprise that these plants do not honor property boundaries, and without the presence of natural predation or competition, they thrive. Scotch Broom (Class B noxious weed) was allegedly introduced to Washington State during highway construction to provide a pleasant aesthetic and to prevent erosion along roadsides, both of which it does accomplish. However, after you account for the millions of tax-dollars spent to control it in subsequent decades, it is clear that somebody made a huge mistake.
In 2017, an economic impact report regarding invasive species was produced in a collaborative effort by WSDA, Ecology, WSDOT, Washington Invasive Species Council, and several other state agencies. The report concluded that Scotch broom and Spartina alterniflora alone could cost the state $191 million per year in potential lost revenue and over one thousand lost jobs statewide, if they are left unmanaged. In Pacific County, we have both of these weeds and many more. The full Noxious Weed List, which is updated annually, is available at PCweeds.org.
When the daffodils bloom in a few weeks, take a moment to be grateful that we get to be a part of this amazing web of life. And then take another moment to make your noxious weed control plans for the year. A little bit of planning goes a long way, and preventing a problem is always better than reacting to one. Don’t assume that your property is weed-free. Do your research. Make annual weed control part of your spring routine and you could save yourself (and your neighbors) massive amounts of time and money. Learn how to identify the weeds that you are most-likely to see, and how to manage them.
The Pacific County Noxious Weed Control Board is ready and willing to provide expert advice, project planning assistance, equipment rentals and whatever else you need to get the job done. You can find more information at PCweeds.org.