What’s in a weed?

What with seed collection being pretty much done, we have been doing a hodge podge list of things around the Rawlins Field Office with various departments. One of my favorite projects has been our work with the noxious weeds department. We were sent to Bennett Peak to check on areas where people have long since sprayed for weeds. After reviewing the state noxious plant list and going over the map, Chloe and I set out for Bennett peak with a list of GPS coordinates and a camera in hand.

We searched for populations of Musk Thistle and Leafy Spurge– sometimes we found a flourishing population of invasive weeds and sometimes we did not (which hopefully means that, because were sprayed long ago, the population is under control). We photographed all of the sites as evidence. We drove, hiked and climbed around this riverside area full of fishermen and campers to get to these sites. They all recognized us as noxious weeds people just from out packets of maps and coordinates.

Leafy Spurge taking over
PC: Chloe Battista

I thought a lot that day about the concept of weeds. Gardeners will call anything undesirable in their plot a weed. This could be a native plant that is just considered “useless” or “ugly”. Meanwhile, I would use the word weed to describe an invasive plant taking over an environment. These are undesirable because of the harm they do to the ecosystem– either by taking up space and nutrients from once biodiverse areas, replacing them with monocultures, or making the area otherwise uninhabitable by native organisms. They could be pleasant in appearance, like Leafy Spurge or Oxeye Daisy, but that does not particularly matter. BLM sprays for them in hopes of fighting back against them. If they are able to keep up with it regularly, it just might work. It is interesting how we apply undesirability and desirability to nature depending on our goal.

Some invasives can be pretty, but this thistle still needs to be destroyed.
PC: Chloe Battista

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