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Posts Tagged ‘spotted knapweed’

A good subtitle for this post could be NIMBY:  spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe).  I have written a previous NIMBY post on the showy evening primrose.   At least the primrose is actually a native here.   Spotted knapweed is a plant that was introduced to the North American continent sometime in the late 1800s.  The surmise that it came in on ballast or by contaminating some seed.

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That is a photo of a spotted knapweed plant in late spring.   Below is a shot of it in the original location on the property.

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It is that bushy thing to the left of my whiskey barrel.   Here is a decent close up of what the flowers look like.

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I came across knapweed while I was on a road trip.   Specifically, I was driving to Georgia in order to visit my son and daughter in law so that I could be there when my grandson was delivered.   I am always on the lookout for interesting plants, and on one of my rest stops I noticed a flowering plant that seemed to be very happy living by the pasture fence with no water and no cultivation.   It certainly looked like some sort of aster (which it is), and I decided to see if I could find some viable seeds on it.   I collected a few and put them in my purse for future reference.

After the child was born, I returned home and stashed the seeds in my “for future reference” file.   The following spring, I planted a few in a pot and stuck it by the whiskey barrels where I could keep an eye on it.   I was rather pleased when it came up, and over the course of the season it bloomed nicely.  I noticed that my pollinators approved of it, and I was very happy that it was the sort of plant that started blooming in early summer and kept at it until late fall.

Take a close look at the photo above.   Do you see the little seedlings growing in the gravel near the mother plant?   That should have been my first clue that perhaps I did not want to loose this on the world at large.   There were literally hundreds of seedlings around the mother plant.

At that point, I did a desultory identification of my mystery plant.  I thought it was a bushy aster, most likely.

Fast forward a couple of years.   Jim and I have spent over $2000 having the east line cleared in preparation for the new prairie.   We swallowed our distaste and treated the whole area with weed killer, because when you are establishing a prairie the best way to get rid of the competitor plants is to spray with glyphosphate.   I truly hate that substance, but it was a one time treatment and the result was a substrate where my baby prairie plants would not have to compete with weed species.

Then I seeded.   And I transplanted babies in from my Petite Prairie and from the prairie plant nursery by the sauna.   And I planted shrubs.   And the nascent prairie looked like this:

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It really seemed awfully bare to me, and so I thought I would plant something to give me some color while I waited for the two year maturation process of the seed mix.  Guess what I chose?

You are absolutely right.   I chose my aster.  After all, I had several viable seedlings near the original place.   It no longer needed a pot there, it was just growing there next to the pergola.

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There are a few plants of the aster visible against the fence.   The following year, noticed that it had reseeded itself.

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Yes, that is a seedling just in front of the hazelnut shrub.   So far, so good.

We watched the little prairie start to grow and thrive, rejoicing.

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It really started to look lovely, at all seasons.   Just like I had planned.   But do you notice that big clump of grey shrubby stuff back in the left hand corner of the picture?

That is the “aster”.   And the following spring, this was what I saw everywhere where I had planted a mother plant.

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Do you see all that green?   Almost universally, that is the “aster” I had planted in my new prairie.  At that point, I realized that I needed to exercise some control over this phenomenon.   Unfortunately, when I was looking at that and thinking “I really need to weed this back.  My prairie plants are doing well I and I am not sure I need so much of this” I was suffering extreme pain in my right hip.  So extreme that I could not bend down, or kneel, or sit on the ground for any length of time.

Shortly after the above picture was taken, I had my right hip joint totally replaced.   And all summer long, I watched those patches of green grow, and bloom and make seeds, and I could do nothing to stop it.  When my hip finally healed enough that I could get in there, the damage was done.  And while I was waiting for the surgery to heal, I did an extensive search and learned that I had planted spotted knapweed, an invasive exotic.  If you search it, you will find extensive warnings against this plant.  It crowds out forage grasses, it…  is an abomination.

Everywhere where you see those green plants, there are thousands of seedlings.   I have been struggling for months to get them out of there.   I dealt with a forest of this plant, the flowering stalks were as tall as I was.   It seems like every flower gets pollinated and makes 50 seeds or so, and every seed that hits the ground sprouts and grows.

The grow into the middle of clumps of grass.  They suffocate other plants nearby just by the very fact that there are so many of them.  The little seedlings look a lot like members of the echinacea and rudbeckia families.  When you are pulling the mature plants, if you don’t get at least 90% of the root stock, the plant will come up again.

I could go on, but I won’t.   The sad lesson I learned here is to NEVER plant something that you are not absolutely sure you have identified correctly.

I am sorry to say that the problem is so severe that I am seriously contemplating doing another glyphosphate treatment and starting over.   I am not that far along yet in the decision making process.  It depends on how I do next spring when I start addressing the carpet of knapweed seedlings that covers five 100 sq. ft. patches (guess how many mother plants I put in three years ago?) of my prairie.

Wish me luck.

 

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