Char-Koosta News

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Medusahead invades Flathead Reservation

(Courtesy photo)

PABLO ó A new invasive grass capable of displacing native grasses and drastically reducing the carrying capacity of rangeland has been detected in the north Valley Creek area of the Flathead Reservation. The spread of Medusahead may be curtailed by diligent landowner reports to weed-control officials. This information is intended to help identify the weed and encourage more reports.

Medusahead, with bristles that resembles the mythic monsterís head with snakes for hair, has caused great concern among researchers. The Eurasia grass and was found in southwestern Oregon in 1884 and has been discovered in 17 Western states in the past decade. Medusahead spreads rapidly through native grasses where perennial vegetation has been destroyed or depleted by newly graded roads, livestock loafing areas, or where fires cleared an area. The weed is virtually inedible, offers little value for livestock and wildlife due to its high silica content, and it prevents other plants from germinating. It prefers a high clay soil and high water holding capacity soils. Medusahead may replace cheatgrass in wet areas. Healthy native plant communities are less susceptible but not resistant to medusahead colonization.

Medusahead takes advantage of deep soil moisture yet produces seed two to three weeks after cheatgrass. Medusahead appears matt-forming due to its ability to cover an area to the detriment of other plants. At the end of its growing season Medusahead seeds remain attached to stem unlike many other troublesome weeds.

Medusahead has rapid fall germination and root growth throughout the winter. It reduces water availability for more palatable pasture and range grass and forage. This invasive grass creates abundant litter that does not decompose easily, reducing the ability of other species to sprout and grow. Medusahead has been estimated to reduce the carrying capacity of infested rangeland by 75 percent for domestic livestock.

Please be on the lookout for this plant along dirt roads, utility corridors, and other disturbed sites, especially in the Valley Creek, Jocko, Ravalli and Dixon areas. If you see this plant, please contract:
1 ) The CSKT Lands Department at 676-2700, Ext. 1240,
2 ) Lake County Weed Control at 883-7330,
3 ) Sanders County Weed Department at 826-3487, or
4 ) Missoula County Weed Control at 258-4200.

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