HFWA has begun a new volunteer project with the Forest Service aimed at clearing noxious weeds from the Caribou-Targhee forest. On August 1, 2023, volunteers met to tear out weeds that were starting to take over the box canyon boat ramp, a very busy and popular recreation area. All weeds were bagged in paper bags to be burned by the Forest Service. Spotted knapweed was the main target for removal.
“Once you start to learn what weeds to look for, its shocking how much you’ll see,” said Caitlyn Wanner, HFWA project coordinator.
Spotted knapweed is native to Europe. It is a biennial, meaning that the first year plant is just a rosette. Once mature, each plant can produce up to 25,000 seeds which remain viable for up to eight years in the ground! It’s important to pull the tap root when removing them.
Other weeds pulled included Canada thistle and houndstongue. Canada thistle is identified by spiny leaf margins and pinkish composite flowers that grows from rhizomes (horizontal roots). There are many species of thistles and some are native, so if identification is uncertain, they should not be pulled. When removed, it is important to wear tough leather gloves.
Houndstongue is named for the leaves which resemble a dog’s tongue (long, lance-shaped, and rough). The flowers are small and red, and the seeds are large and prickly and easily attach to pants, shoes, and fur. This plant is also a biennial – the first year plant is a rosette. It is important to remove the tap root with the rest of the plant. This plant is toxic to livestock.
The weeds likely got introduced to the box canyon area by boaters and other visitors. However, local Island Park residents can help reduce the spread of these weeds by identifying and removing them in their own yards.
Said Caitlyn Wanner, “It’s hard work, and it can take a few years, but over time we hope to really start seeing a difference”