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Many thanks to Linda Habeck for her well written alert about the weed scourge, hoary alyssum.

It has spread much faster than knapweed, and is toxic, to boot, yet people in this county have completely ignored it — just watched it overtake the roadsides.

If you are unsure what it looks like, walk the bike path from Stevensville to the river. It is the small, white flowering weed with a rosette leaf and many flowering arms. Since it has been mowed, it is about a foot high—left alone, it can get to 3 feet.

That is a well used pathway, and no one who uses it apparently cares about the flourishing weed, which is directly adjacent to the beautiful hay fields of the Fort Owen Ranch. Just think, if everyone who walked that path every day carried a garbage bag, and pulled or clipped those flourishing flowers, and disposed of them, how that would make a difference.

This weed is so successful, because every plant can produce 2500 seeds every year, and when those seeds drop onto the ground, they can be viable for up to nine years.

This means that if every seed from every plant growing today between Stevensville and the river were to be removed, we would have to repeat this step every year from now until 2032 to eliminate this weed from just that small stretch of roadway. (This is figuring that weeds have already been growing there for five years, and that every seed is accounted for.) If the weed has been growing in your area for ten years, add five years to that.

Many people, including me, have chemical sensitivities to weed spray, and the explosion of this plant causes me alarm. It is far too late to be controlled by hand pulling.

Mowing is not the answer, as the mower carries the seeds along the roadways and plants them. This is why the roadways themselves are far more infested than the fields. The only way to adequately control these weed is with chemical application, and the more the weed is allowed to spread, the more chemical use will be needed to get it under control.

People, please control your weeds on your own property and take care of the roadway in front of your property if that right of way is infested. If you walk for exercise, carry a garbage bag and some clippers. Pull or clip the weeds you find, and burn them or send them to the landfill.

I am amazed that every horse owner in this county is not pressing to get this weed stopped. Severe laminitis can be a death sentence for a horse—or just leave it a cripple.

Pull your heads out of your cell phones and wake up. Demand some action before all of our hay fields are ruined. Everyone else should be willing to take action, whereever they see this weed. If you are allowing hoary alyssum to grow on your property, you are part of the problem, instead of trying for a solution!

— Jane Lambert, Former Ravalli Co. Weed Board Member, Stevensville

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