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4/30/18- The Thistle

texasinvasives.org

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By Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist

I’m ashamed to say that this weekend was the first weekend in over a month that the grass has been cut. It was not face-smacking height, but it was close. As I made my way across the yard, I noticed many varieties of weeds that had popped up thanks to the ample amounts of rain! Dandelions were of the majority, but second runner up for the most common weed in the yard was the Nodding Plumeless Thistle. The name may not ring a bell now, but it will by the end of this article.

Most of the time, my husband and I are very adamant about keeping a nice yard. We don’t go more than two weeks without cutting the grass and the flowers are usually all alive and well. So far this year, the rain has curbed my enthusiasm. But that is the last time I let this thistle business grow wild. It is best characterized by its huge, spiny leaves and the purple dandelion-like flowers. The flowers will sometime nod or dip, and the leaves will form little mounds on the ground. Sometimes the weed (the more politically correct term is a forb, but it’s a weed in my opinion) will get some height on it. When it does, the flowers sit on top of a thick, hairy stalk that will also have spines. The plants form dense infestations in pastures, but are turned down by livestock (I would snuff that large spiny thing too). However, the flowers are most commonly pollinated by livestock, wind, and water. Of course, this obnoxious weed/forb is not native to the United States and was introduced from Europe because it looked pretty. It occurs mostly in open, disturbed areas or areas that experience flooding and/or landslides. A SINGLE PLANT CAN PRODUCE 120,000 OR MORE SEEDS ANNUALLY!!!! That is crazy. That kind of reproduction is not a good thing when you are talking about an invasive species!

So how do we combat the thistle? The best method is prevention. If you are able to keep other crops or plants growing, they can outgrow the thistle and it will have a hard time establishing itself. If you do not maintain your yard or pastures, it will take over. Also try to remove any small infestations before they become too large to eradicate. Thistle does not compete well with other plants, so keep a diverse plant community growing in your fields or pastures to deter this pesky species!

By: Meaghan English

My name is Meaghan English, a wildlife specialist with TrueSouth. I graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology and Management and I have grown up with a passion for hunting. I knew from an early age that I was not only interested in the harvesting of wildlife, but I was also very interested in their biology and management. I decided that I not only wanted to be a wildlife enthusiast, I want to be an educated wildlife specialist. I will be using that grand education as a member of the TrueSouth team contributing wildlife blog articles!

My first hunting memory flashes back to when I was six or seven years old. Like any other Saturday during deer season, my dad had told my mom to get me ready because we were going hunting. Of course I was ecstatic! I was not ecstatic about the hair bow my mom made me wear with my camouflage (she wanted everyone to know I was in fact a fashionable girl). The entire way to Perdue Hill, Alabama, my dad told me that today would be the first day I would actually shoot my first deer and I knew I was ready. We pulled up to the camp, unloaded, and fed all the “camp cats”. Before we headed to our stand, I had spotted three kittens that I simply could not leave behind so I stuffed them in my jacket. After walking what seemed like five miles, we finally made it to the “Pressbox stand” (with my smuggled kittens) and sat down. Dad continuously pestered me to be quiet, but I wasn’t that worried about shooting a deer, I had kittens! Eventually, the sun began to sink behind the trees and a spike (without olfactory senses) entered the field. When it was safe to quietly move, dad handed me the gun and I handed him my three kittens. I slowly pulled the gun up and placed my cheek against the stock. Dad told me to breathe slowly and pull the trigger when I was ready. Sure enough, I pulled the trigger and the spike hit the ground. We high-fived, exchanged kittens again, and climbed down to see the kill. It certainly was not a wall hanger, but a huge chapter in my life was started that night. My dad and I still hunt together to this day and we practice quality deer management at all times.

My ultimate goal is to provide clients with a survey of flora and fauna that currently inhabit a specific tract of land and, if desired, how to properly manage that land for the species that are found there. All feedback is greatly appreciated and I look forward to working with you!

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