The employees of King County’s Noxious Weed Program know they can’t stop the spread of invasive plants on their own, so they’re bringing a secret weapon to the fight – local residents and businesses.
“We try to teach people enough so they can do better at controlling these plants. A lot of people want to control noxious weeds and invasive plants, but not everyone knows how. We offer that expertise,” said Sasha Shaw, the noxious weed education specialist.
Throughout the year, staff from the program attend public events to answer questions about what noxious weeds are and how they can be controlled.
“We talk to people who are completely unfamiliar with the concept of invasive plants all the way up to farmers who have been farming for 50 years,” Shaw said.
At Enumclaw’s Street Fair on July 25 – 27, 499 residents visited the program’s booth where they received pamphlets on how to identify noxious weeds and on how to dispose of them.
A noxious weed can be hard to spot since they aren’t necessarily ugly or poisonous. According to Shaw, a noxious weed is any plant that isn’t native to the area and is harmful to the environment and economy. Oftentimes, Shaw said, people see a weed at the booth and realize they have them in their backyard.
“We’re trying to protect the environment and protect the economy. Invasive plants undermine both those things, so those are big picture things we’re trying to do,” Shaw said.
Noxious weeds in Washington are categorized into three classes. Class A, the highest priority, list weeds that could potentially cause severe harm to the environment, but haven’t become widespread.
“At that stage of the invasion the idea is we can still eradicate those plants from Washington, so there’s the most attention and effort put on those,” Shaw said.
Common high priority noxious weeds are Garlic Mustard, Giant Hogweed and Milk Thistle. Since property owners are required to eradicate Class A weeds on their property, the Noxious Weed Control Program can assist landowners by providing equipment and direct support to treat these high priority weeds.
Since there are a wide variety of noxious weeds the program figures out the appropriate methods to control or eradicate a weed.
“There’s a lot to tell people and that’s one of the challenges. There isn’t just one or two species, there’s over 100 species,” Shaw said.