Time to tackle Whidbey's noxious weed: tansy ragwort

Tansy ragwort, which appears as a daisy-like bunch of yellow flowers atop a tall stalk, remains one of the county’s most pervasive noxious weeds.

Not only does the plant quickly invade newly disturbed areas, but it is poisonous to cattle, horses, sheep, pets, and even people, according to the county’s Noxious Weed Prevention Coordinator Janet Stein.

Stein and volunteers from the Washington Conservation Corps Crew out of Mount Vernon pulled 2,240 pounds of tansy ragwort this week, estimating well over 10,000 plants.

“It is so important to do as much outreach and education about noxious weeds as possible,” Stein said. “There were several times when we were out pulling this week that we saw landowners that had just left the tansy ragwort to grow in their gardens just thinking what a pretty plant it was and totally unaware of the negative impacts it has.”

Despite their efforts this week, tansy ragwort will be going to seed within the next two weeks which means the noxious weed will continue to spread.

“It’s important to pull these ASAP,” Stein said.

Small infestations can be controlled manually by pulling up the entire plant, including its roots, according to the state’s Noxious Weed Control Board. They recommend wearing protective gloves when pulling and handling plants. Flowering plants should be sealed in a plastic bag and put in the trash — not in your compost or yard waste.

Stein said noxious weeds can also be disposed of at the Coupeville transfer station for free.

“Don’t just pull or cut the plant and leave them on the ground,” Stein warned. “The plants will often have enough energy to still mature to seed stage even after being pulled or cut.”

Stein said there are at least two types of wildflowers that can be easily mistaken as the poisonous tansy ragwort which can be identified by its thirteen small yellow petals.

St. John’s wort, also a small yellow flower, displays five petals. Another less dangerous relative of tansy ragwort, common tansy, appears as a small, round button-like flower.

Both of these noxious weeds are Class C non-regulated weeds in Island County, meaning property owners are not required to control the species but control is recommended where feasible, Stein said.

“Because of its invasiveness and toxicity to livestock, tansy ragwort is a Class B regulated weed, meaning property owners are legally required to control it,” she added.

For more information on tansy ragwort and other noxious weeds, visit www.ext100.wsu/island.


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