Wet summer has brought new weeds to the area

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By Sylvia Brockner

On Friday evening, Aug.14, the Weed Awareness Committee met for its last summer weed pulling at Evergreen Lake.

This rainy summer has produced an unusual number of weeds, as well as unusually big weeds. Two of the participants had brought a sample of a new weed that had appeared in their yard. No wonder they were concerned, for the stalks they pulled out of their bags were 6 feet tall. They had appeared in their yards just recently, since the last weed pull. They had each brought a sample of the same plant. They were both healthy specimen of the tall marsh elder (Iva xanthifolia). This weed is rather common on agricultural land and recently disturbed soil, especially on the plains. It comes up late and matures in late summer. One of the gentlemen who brought the plant in said he’d had a load of topsoil delivered. I do not know whether the second man had also had topsoil delivered, but I do know that purchasing topsoil is one of the ways that noxious weeds are rapidly spread.

The name “tall marsh elder” is somewhat confusing. This plant is not an elder, which is a large shrub or small tree, and I have found the name spelled three different ways — i.e., one word, two words and hyphenated. It does like a bit more moisture than we have in normal summers, but that means it fills up the stream valleys and roadside ditches. The tall part of the name simply tells us that there are two species of Iva, one tall and the other short. This plant grows anywhere from 2 to 7 feet high.

There is another large weed that is similar to the marsh elder. The giant or great ragweed (Ambrosia trifida) is just as big (3 to 12 feet), but it has different leaves and flowers. The great ragweed has leaves that are divided into three to five lobes, while the marsh elder has simple, undivided egg-shaped leaves. Both the marsh elder and the great ragweed produce a great deal of pollen when in bloom, and both of them are serious hay fever offenders. They are, however, fairly easy to eradicate since they are annuals, so cultivation or pulling will eliminate them in one season provided they are not allowed to go to seed. Both of these plants bear small flowers in terminal and axillary spikes. However, our native Western ragweed is a perennial and will come up again when pulled because the stem breaks off at the rhizome, which will grow again another year.

The feeders have been filled with baby birds the past week. The adults are apparently in need of food for themselves so have taught the young where the supply is. Young birds this year have included pine siskins, house finches, black-headed grosbeaks, evening grosbeaks, red crossbills, nuthatches and chickadees. Most of the birds have had fairly successful breeding this year.