Flowers pretty, but not welcome

Posted: Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bright new flowers greet us on our drive home from Anchorage to Soldotna. From Anchorage to Girdwood, tall white sweet clover (melilotis alba) bend gracefully in the breeze -- thousands of them, planted accidentally when a DOT contractor sprayed contaminated seed. Roadside daisies now abound for miles south of the Hope cutoff -- the charming but deceitful Oxeye daisy that, in other states, has taken over roadsides and is a vector for plant diseases.

Autumn dandelions smile out from the project near Silvertip Creek, patches of birdsfoot trefoil adorn mountain scenic overlooks and the recent Jerome Lake project is sprouting tall spindly yellow hawksbeard, which is also invading streets in Soldotna.

What all these plants have in common is they do not belong here. They are not native to our area. They are invasive species that can disrupt natural ecosystems and cause millions of dollars in damage to river ecosystems and agriculture.

Doesn't it seem like somebody would be doing something about this? The state of Alaska has recently updated its list of banned plants. Now it needs to follow the good example of other states that require posting of a bond by DOT landscape contractors. This money would pay for eliminating any weeds inadvertently sown before they get out of control.

Although the state has been slow to play a strong role in prevention and remediation, dozens of citizen volunteers across the state are mobilizing to tackle the problem. Stopping white sweet clover on the Kenai Peninsula is worth a try, before our river systems are infested like those in the Mat-Su. Volunteers are pulling the tall plant within Girdwood and south from there, but a few are showing up near Seward. Roadside mowing of this biennial would be helpful before the seeds ripen.

If you spot some of these weeds in the next few days, kindly pull and bag them or note the location and notify your local Cooperative Extension Service office (262-5824), the Kenai Watershed Forum (260-5449) or, on the Seward side, the Forest Service (743-9437). Thanks.

Peggy Mullen


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