Thrash a thistle |

Thrash a thistle

Paul E. Anna

Last week, High Points remarked that this is one of the best wildflower seasons in recent memory. I don’t mean to go all botanical on you here, but again the focus is on the great outdoors.This time, however, it is on the stuff we don’t want rather than the stuff we do. It is the beginning of thistle season in the Roaring Fork Valley, and it is not an understatement to say that we, collectively, are at war. The outcome of this fight will determine the future of our pastures, roadsides and fields for years to come.Our main enemy is something called the Plumeless thistle. This nasty, noxious weed is, of course, like the vast (though steadily diminishing) majority of valley residents, a European import. According to the Pitkin County Vegetation Management Noxious Weed Handbook and Spray Guide, the weed is “a major problem in and around the Aspen area.” That registers a big “duh!”These things are insidious and they have declared a jihad on open spaces. They grow fast, from little ground plants with sticky leaves that sting like hell when you get them in your fingers, into 5-foot-tall blooming behemoths with reddish-purple flowers that, when they go to seed, spread their little weed bombs to the wind where they land and revegetate into more plants. What to do? Well, if we all just pulled one of these interlopers out of the earth by their fleshy, spiny, little taproots it would … well, it wouldn’t do much. In this war, we need to eradicate vast quantities of the insurgents. Pitkin County has had a Noxious Weed Management Plan in place since 1999. It calls for a five-step approach for the eradication of invasive weeds. The first step is to undertake preventative measures. Next they introduce natural enemies to inflict bio-control. Step three is mechanical, which means get your gloves and shovels out for hand-to-hand combat. Step four is a little murky to the lay botanist, but it involves changing the “culture” of the area where the weeds are located. So far it all sounds like you need a lot of faith to break the back of the enemy.So step five is where they bring out the big guns. Chemical warfare. Herbicides. Pitkin County will give you the weapons (a spray pack) for mass destruction, requiring a $100 deposit – chemicals not included. This may be unpleasant to some, but hey, war is hell.To win, we need to start and a good beginning involves a walk around your property. See a problem? Contact Jim Lewis at the County Vegetation Managers office at 920-5214, or e-mail him at’ll set you straight.

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