UWBG At Home: Noxious Weed Scouting

Like many of us these days, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced me home and out of my normal work as an Arboretum Horticulturist. To fill my days, I have been going for long walks with my dog and exploring the nooks and crannies of my neighborhood in north Seattle. As a plant-nerd I am always admiring gardens, waiting and watching to see when the Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridus) will leaf out in the ravine, and stopping to ponder an unfamiliar bloom. When I stumbled upon a patch of invasive shiny geranium (Geranium lucidum) I recoiled instinctively.

Shiny geranium is native to Europe, western Asia, and North Africa, and has recently become a problem in California, Oregon, and now in Washington. This plant, though relatively small, forms dense mats in the undergrowth, and outcompetes native groundcovers. Many of the infestations of shiny geranium in Washington came from contaminated nursery stock brought up from Oregon. This is how we believe shiny geranium made it to the Arboretum, and we are monitoring our infestation, and controlling it by hand-weeding plants, putting them in garbage bags, and throwing them away. In King County, shiny geranium is a Class B regulated weed and control of any infestation is required.

The King County Noxious Weed Control Board keeps records of all known infestations, and when I found that patch of shiny geranium out on my walk, I knew that they would want to know about it. King County now has an app that allowed me to do just that. The app is straight forward and easy to use. First you take a picture of the weed you are reporting so that staff can verify your ID skills, the app pinpoints your location, and asks for any notes or further observations. You have the option to leave your contact information so King County staff can reach out to you with any questions.

Before you set out on your next neighborhood walk, consider familiarizing yourself with some noxious weeds, download the King County app, and keep your eyes peeled for suspicious plants! King County Noxious Weed staff are predominately working from home these days, so they will likely not be able to respond quickly to any reports you make, but the information will be documented for them when they are able to get back out into the field. Keep in mind that the county has priorities for noxious weeds, and familiarize yourself with the top priority (Class A) weeds. Weeds that are already out of control such as Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) and English Ivy (Hedera helix and Hedera hibernica) are too widespread for reporting.

For more information visit the King County Noxious Weeds Website.