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Rush skeletonweed

Rush skeletonweed is a noxious weed infesting Idaho lands.

MERIDIAN — Idaho noxious weed experts have placed rush skeletonweed near the top of their list of priority weeds to eradicate and are asking Idahoans for their help in attacking this highly invasive plant that has infested more than a million acres of Idaho’s land.

“Idaho has been fighting a long battle against this aggressive noxious weed since the early 1960s and has barely been able to slow down its spread. Weed control superintendents and other experts in the field are hoping that citizens will pitch in to attack this noxious invader,” Roger Batt, Idaho Weed Awareness Campaign coordinator, said in a statement.

Rush skeletonweed is a perennial whose branched stems may be four feet tall and appear leafless. The lower four to six inches of the stems are covered with coarse red-brown hairs. The dandelion-like rosettes, which form in the fall, die as the plant ages. When the plant is cut or broken, it oozes a milky white latex sap that is bitter to grazing animals.

It has yellow, flowering heads that are found scattered on the branches. The small yellow flowers begin in early summer and continue until frost in the fall. Each seed has a parachute of fine hairs, resembling a small dandelion seed, which allow it to occasionally travel up to 30 miles in the wind.

Rush skeletonweed thrives in well-drained, sandy-textured or rocky soils, along roadsides, in rangelands, pastures and in remote areas of the state. It forms dense stands that crowd out desirable vegetation, forcing wildlife and other grazing animals to move to other areas.

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Rush skeletonweed is an extremely difficult noxious weed to eradicate. Weed experts warn that hand-pulling rush skeletonweed actually activates the roots below the ground, which causes the plant to rapidly grow and multiply. Although biological control is available for this plant, it is not as effective as using the proper herbicide for chemical control. Herbicides such as Milestone, Opensight, Perspective, Tordon 22K and Transline are available for use on this invasive plant.

“It is best to use an herbicide on this plant during its rosette stage — early stage of growth. When using an herbicide always follow the label and safety instructions on that label,” Batt added.

Hand harvesting the plants prior to them seeding in the late summer is another great way to keep the seeds from spreading that season, then in the early fall treating the plants with an herbicide is an effective method of control.

Rush skeletonweed is one of Idaho’s 67 listed noxious weeds that have infested 8 million acres of Idaho’s lands and pose a serious threat to Idaho’s economy, ecology and agriculture — causing an estimated $300 million annually in direct damages. State and private landowners spend upwards of $30 million a year to combat noxious weeds. Still, thousands of acres of Idaho’s private and public lands are taken over every day by noxious weeds such as rush skeletonweed.

For more information about Rush skeletonweed and other noxious weeds, go to idahoweedawareness.com or Facebook at IdahoWeedAwareness. Residents can also contact their county weed control department or a private applicator for technical assistance in dealing with rush skeletonweed or other noxious weeds.

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