The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Ag

July 12, 2014

Poster targets invasive plants

ENID, Okla. — They all have more than four letters, but they are certainly bad words in the state of Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Invasive Plant Council (OkIPC) recently re-leased posters highlighting the state’s most problematic species, The Dirty Dozen. Among the list are the all-too-familiar eastern red cedar, musk thistle and yellow bluestem.

“By educating Oklahoma’s citizens about the most pervasive invading plants in Oklahoma and the negative effects these species can have on our natural resources and our health, we might be able to slow or even prevent the invasion,” said Karen Hickman, OkIPC president and professor in Oklahoma State University’s Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management.

With invasive species comes a threat to Oklahoma’s economic and natural resources. The OkIPC seeks to increase awareness through education about invasive plants and encourage legislative and regulatory improvements to increase management practices.

Musk thistle first was reported in Payne County in 1944. By 1994, musk thistle was declared as a noxious weed in Oklahoma, and it now is seen in all 77 counties. Musk thistle is a biennial or winter annual, reproducing only by seed. A single plant can produce 10,000 seeds. Scattered plants can be removed by digging below the crown. Other options for control include biological and herbicide application.

Red cedar can take over fields, thus hurting crops and livestock. A red cedar task force formed in 2002 by Oklahoma Secretaries of Agriculture and Environment to study the problem estimated that by 2013 annual state economic losses resulting from the proliferation of the trees would total $447 million.

Eastern red cedar also robs the land of a commodity becoming more scarce in these times of drought: water. Research by OSU found one cedar tree can take up to 30 gallons of water per day, while one acre of cedars can absorb 55,000 gallons of water in a year.

Sericea lespedeza or Chinese lespedeza, which also is a member of The Dirty Dozen, is not only tackling our state, but has been spreading throughout central and southeastern parts of the United States.

“It was originally introduced from China and Japan and bred for soil erosion control and livestock forage” Hickman said. “This aggressive species out-competes the native plants and forms solid stands that are not suitable forage or habitat for wildlife. While Oklahoma still lists sericea as a crop, the states of Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado have listed it as a noxious weed.”

Also on the list are field brome, cheatgrass, Chinese privet, Japanese Honeysuckle, Russian thistle, Johnsongrass, saltcedar and Siber-ian elm.

“These species are costing landowners in our state an untold amount of money for control efforts and lost production,” Hickman said.

The posters have been distributed to all Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service ag educators and OkIPC would like to distribute them more widely. Those interested in receiving posters should contact Hickman at Karen.hickman@okstate.edu.

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