Carson City taking on its toughest weeds

Eurasian watermilfoil was collected from the Mexican Ditch.

Eurasian watermilfoil was collected from the Mexican Ditch.

The Carson City Weed Coalition is carrying out a couple experimental procedures to eradicate some of the area’s more pernicious weeds.

This week a crew will be working on hand removal of Eurasian watermillfoil, a weed that grows abundantly in shallow, warm water, choking out natural plants and wildlife.

The plant has been found in the Mexican Ditch area and near Empire Ranch Golf Course, said Marenna Disbro, the coalition’s weeds coordinator.

“It’s been in Carson City before, but not to this degree,” said Lyndsey Boyer, senior natural resource specialist, Parks, Recreation and Open Space. “The floods brought in new weeds.”

Part of the problem is the plant spreads easily so efforts to get rid of it are stymied if they’re done in isolation and not throughout the watershed or water body.

Boyer said the city is working with other counties and with the Carson Water Subconservancy District.

The crew working this week in Carson City will consist of city staff, and professionals from the Nevada Department of Agriculture.

The procedure will likely involve hand pulling the weed in patches protected by nets across the river to catch loosened pieces of plant, which can root and start all over again.

“We’re developing a plan and troubleshooting it,” said Boyer.

If the hand pulling proves effective, the coalition may open it to volunteers to get more done.

Next summer, staff may cover the plant in certain locations with black plastic, which would block out the sun, to kill the weed.

The coalition is also working with the agriculture departments of Nevada and Colorado on an experiment to control Canada thistle.

Two weeks ago, a fungus was released in selected areas of Morgan Mill open space and near Mexican dam. The fungus is sprinkled over wet plants and only affects the thistle.

“Once that plant is inoculated it spreads to other plants,” said Boyer.

The fungus was provided free by the ag departments and can be easily obtained by grinding up plants already affected by it. The fungus will be applied against next year to see if it’s successful.

“It’s a toss up whether it will work. It’s a self-sustaining treatment,” said Disbro. “It’s a long game. We’ll see reductions in plant populations.”

And the coalition is at work trying to eliminate yellow starthistle, a noxious weed most likely brought here by trucks coming from California, where it’s a major problem.

The plant is part of the sunflower family and is dispersed by wind.

“When it goes to seed it’s fluffy like a dandelion,” said Boyer.

It’s a huge fire risk. The plant can be hand pulled or mowed and sprayed where there are big patches of it.

It varies in size, growing up to six feet tall, and has a yellow flower with silvery-green leaves and sharp spikes.

The coalition first found plants in open areas between the Walmart and Home Depot off Retail Drive, and recently in Riverview Park, when staff was there doing a river cleanup.

The coalition encourages anyone who sees a yellow starthistle to contact Disbro at 775-283-7035 or or via the coalition’s Facebook page.


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