Fire is Out
- Now What?
By: Kacey Conway and Karen Eslinger
remains in the wake of the fires are stark , black skeletons of
juniper and pinon and powdery black ash that swirls in gray
dustdevils at the whim of the westerly winds. Red splotches
splattered across the blackened landscape by slurry bombers and long
fire lines hand-dug by frontline firefighters are the only evidence
of the intensity of the battle against Fire this past week. The
ecosystem is damaged and weakened. So, what happens now?
Specialists are already planning the re-vegetation and reclamation of the fire sites, but insidious opportunists wait in the wings. The burned landscape is vulnerable. Noxious weeds that are thriving on the periphery of the fire, now have a competitive edge.
Noxious weeds are undesirable plants that are particularly threatening to public health, agriculture, recreation, wildlife or any public or private property. Most important, however, are those invasive species introduced from other continents that are outside of their natural habitats. Predators and plants normally competitive with these species are not present to control their spread. Noxious weeds readily invade disturbed land because disturbance compromises the native ecosystem and gives aggressive weed species a competitive advantage.
Whitetop is a deep-rooted perennial mustard reproducing by roots and seeds. This species grows up to 2 feet tall, has blue-green leaves and produces thousands of seeds. Whitetop is common on alkaline soils and disturbed areas and becomes very competitive with other species. This weed emerges early spring and flowers in April and May. Numerous, dense flowering branches give the plant a white-topped appearance.
Diffuse knapweed is an annual, biennial or
short-lived perennial originating in the Mediterranean region. This
species is a diffusely branching, greyish-green, highly competitive weed
representing a threat to rangelands, pastures and roadsides. Flowers are
usually white and sometimes pink, rose or lavender. The flowering heads
are narrow and numerous, and flowering occurs from June to September.
Everyone can help discourage
noxious weed invasion. Learn to identify those weed species prevalent in
the area and avoid spreading weed seeds by driving or walking through
infested patches. Report suspected infestations to your county, state,
local or federal weed managers. Be assured that these beautiful, natural
western landscapes will thrive because of your diligence and be forever
(Cynoglossum officinale L.)
Houndstongue is a biennial forming a rosette the first year and flowering the second year. This species was introduced from Europe and spreads by seed. Houndstongue grows in pastures, along roadsides and in disturbed areas. The leaves resemble a hound’s tongue and are rough to the touch. Flowers are reddish-purple and rarely white. The seeds (nutlets) cling to animals and clothing and are easily transported. Houndstongue contains toxic alkaloids, causing liver cells to stop reproducing. Horses and cattle are more susceptible to the toxins than are sheep.