Wild Parsnip, help with ID

The photo below is a good one for seeing what a large infestation looks like.

Lots of yellow, even overwhelming the Christmas trees for the moment.

And on both sides of the photo, individual plants stand out, particularly the flower heads.

The stem of wild parsnip is hollow and typically ridged on the larger plants.  Those are vertical, lengthwise ridges, but smaller plants often remain smooth-stemmed.

Once the plants are dead, the entire structure dries to shades of brown, and the seeds stand on their stalks like little watermelon seeds.


Another photo highlights a single plant:


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Don’t Stop Now…

Most landscapes are impacted by a dozen or so invasive plant species.  They all operate on their own calendar, and we scramble to keep up.  A clean, complete extraction of the target plant generally eliminates re-sprout, but most important early on is to limit the size of the infestation by breaking the seed cycle.  If you run out of time to pull individual plants, go ahead and cut, but come back through and check for late flowers.  Plants like wild chervil and wild parsnip will flower at 4″ tall, so a follow-up is vital.  Even if seeds are formed, you can go through and pull the plants or collect seed heads.  Just be sure to dispose of that material in a designated place.  And once the seeds are truly dry, once they easily shake free, it’s time to avoid that area or be extremely careful not to pick up seeds.  Seeds get everywhere, that’s what they’re designed to do, and even dirt on a shovel should be considered “contaminated.”

But until that seed-drop starts, it is absolutely permissible to continue your control work.  Keep pulling and cutting, just be sure to treat the vegetation with a new respect since it now carries viable seed.  I’m a big fan of hotspots.  No need to burn everything…. just condense these long roadside weed patches into single occasional hotspots or weed drying stations.  Much easier to manage a couple of those rather than an entire roadside.  You can always burn that spot or smother it later.

I tend to run tight on time in spring, so I’ll often try to get ahead of biennials like garlic mustard, wild chervil and wild parsnip with some pulling in the fall.  Until the ground freezes, one can often pull the first-year plants.  They’ll be the ones seeding next spring as second-year survivors, but not if they over-winter on the drying station.  If time is available, some work in the fall can make spring a lot easier.

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The first waves of parsnip are down.  More will follow, as shall I.

Was curious to know the seed count on one particularly huge wild parsnip.  I had ballparked 2500 as a good working average a couple years ago, but this trophy plant last week easily topped 15,000.  Impressive.

I’m able to pull thousands in a day, targeting the most mature plants first.  Since those will have viable seed earliest, it’s important to buy time and catch them.  Good sunny days dry out and bake the plants very quickly – no time lost to piling or removing from site.

More long days ahead!

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A Strong Start to 2015

Be smart and be careful as you work with  your landscape / farm / garden.  Breaking the seed cycle is a powerful tool, and the place to do that is at critical chokepoints or gateways on your land.  Keep the focus on outliers and colonizers if you already have an invasive species established, and work to bring in competition… durable native species.  I don’t encourage a lot of smothering, but a heavy tarp or old plywood will absolutely smother the wild chervil beneath it.  But not a blue tarp… not effective.  Smothering and strip mowing can contain a patch and prevent expansion, but there’s no way around the old “patient pulling and vigilance” approach.

I’ll urge you to watch for poison ivy as well.  This is a banner year…. it’s now on many of my sites, in impressive size and quantity.  I attempt to leave it alone as a native plant, but it’s a tough species to work around.  I see ivy as a mimic to the plants nearby.  Under grapevines, it takes a similar size and color, near hog peanut the ivy is much smaller and dainty, under box elder saplings you could easily misread it for box elder.  Tricky.

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Welcome to GotWeeds? – the non-native invasive weed consultation, training, treatment, and information-exchange site.  GotWeeds? is committed to the use of non-synthetic weed control methods, which means that toxins are out but flame treatments and manual control methods are in.  Best of course to assess the site and discuss the long-term vision first, but GotWeeds? seeks to demonstrate that awareness, monitoring, and early detection are strong tools in the campaign to protect treasured landscapes.  Combine those tools with some gritty,  strenuous work up front, and you are well on your way to a healthy and resilient property.  I can help you attain that vision.

In creating this website, one of my goals was to offer landowners an information exchange, enabling them to cost-compare treatment options for non-native invasive weeds.  While all sites and infestations are unique, an information exchange can be useful in determining the most appropriate and effective approach. Should you choose to pursue non-synthetic treatments that will endure over the long term, please contact Mike Bald at choosewiselyvt@gmail.com.  Thank you for choosing wisely and thinking beyond your own needs.

Speaking with a group during a post-Irene weed consultation, Royalton, May 2012

Speaking with a group during a post-Irene weed consultation,  Royalton, Vermont, May 2012

~Mike Bald, Founder of Got Weeds?

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