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Pretty blooms, prickly problem

News editor

Musk thistle is a familiar farm country paradox this time of year. Its intricate bright purple blooms are eye-catching and beautiful, but the prickly plant is a threat to overtake any pasture in which it gains a foothold.

“The musk thistle is coming on strong,” county noxious weed director Bud Druse said. “Last year there was quite a bit. With the mild winter, I’ve noticed a lot of bigger rosettes. I don’t know if that’s a sign of something to come or not.”

A less familiar noxious weed, sericea lespedeza, also has Druse’s attention.

“We’re finding a lot of that around. “Sericea is kind of countywide. It’s down south; it’s out west; it’s up north.”

Sericea lespedeza was introduced to southeast Kansas in the 1930s when it was planted in strip-mined areas. It gained a broader foothold in the 1980s through contaminated grass seed provided to farmers by the federal Conservation Reserve Program.

Druse described it as a woody-stalked plant between 12 and 18 inches tall with leaves that grow in clumps of three and white flowers that bloom in late August or early September. It is primarily found in pastures but can infest no-till cropland, he said.

Sericea can spread if it is harvested and baled with hay.

“Cows can eat it and spread the seed walking around and doing their thing,” Druse said. “The deer do it, too.”

Because sericea is less familiar and a late bloomer, people may not know what sort of weed they’re looking at, Druse said.

“If you’re not familiar with it, bring a sample by, and we’ll tell you right away whether it is or isn’t,” he said. “Once you see it, you can be driving down the road 60 mph and know what it is.”

County road crews look for noxious weed infestations and work with Druse to take care of growth in ditches. Druse contacts farmers when noxious weeds are spotted in pastures or fields.

His department sells chemicals and can issue discount cost-share certificates farmers can use to purchase what they.

Additional information is available from the noxious weed department by calling (620) 382-3190.

Last modified June 9, 2016

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