EDITOR, Daily News:
Ketchikan's invasive weeds have returned with vigor.
Japanese knotweed, tansy ragwort, Scotch broom and orange hawkweed line roadsides or fill open areas. Dedicated weed pullers have, over the years, decreased tansy from some areas, although other places have seen an increase.
Volunteers, utilizing Forest Service funding, have pulled thousands of pounds of tansy while the Solid Waste Facility has incinerated most of the tansy.
However, these weeds are tenacious, and if Ketchikan is to maintain native species of salmonberry, thimbleberry and other useful plants, we must continue to pull.
Scotch broom blooms first, producing bright yellow flowers and black pea-like fruit. If not eliminated, it grows into impenetrable stands that eliminate deer forage. Scotch broom is present only in southern Southeast, having arrived from Washington state where prolific stands have overtaken the landscape around Seattle. Because of its woody stems, it must be cut with handsaws.
Japanese knotweed resembles bamboo. It emerges from last year's roots, growing heart-shaped leaves and producing sprays of white flowers in late August. If a stem is cut to take home, it will grow — and grow. A 4-inch stem can grow into a massive stand. Knotweed clogs waterways and displaces salmonberries and thimbleberries. Cutting knotweed down and covering with black plastic for two or three years has eliminated it.
Tansy ragwort has overwhelmed Ward Cove and spread throughout Ketchikan. It contains a toxic compound that kills livestock in the Lower 48. Although few farm animals live in Southeast, it is still dangerous. Tansy overtakes native plants, increasing rapidly. Roots must be removed when the plant is pulled, and if left on the roadside, flowers will develop and release seeds, which are viable for up to seven years. Volunteers shake off as much dirt as possible, otherwise the incinerator fills up with a concrete-like substance that workers remove with great difficulty.
Orange hawkweed has overtaken our roadsides and we lack sufficient volunteers to successfully control the plant.
A group of volunteers is working to form a Cooperative Weed Management Area so grants can reduce the impact of invasive plants. We hope to obtain the support of Ketchikan Indian Corp., the City of Saxman, the City of Ketchikan and Ketchikan Gateway Borough, and maintain the support of the city’s Solid Waste Facility and the U.S. Forest Service. Pool Engineering has graciously allowed people to bring bags of plants for incineration at their Ward Cove site (please notify Pool Engineering if you plan to drop bags of tansy).
There have been no group pulls this year, due to COVID plus double our normal rainfall. However, people continue to pull. Volunteers are advised to wear clothing that covers their arms, gloves to protect their hands and a dandelion-pulling tool or a garden scoop to remove stubborn plants. Solid waste has yellow bags to be used for tansy.
Thanks for your help.