King County beginning seasonal battle against toxic and invasive plants

More daylight and warming temperatures are close at hand, and that means King County greenspaces and backyards will soon start coming alive with vegetation – including unwanted invasive plants and noxious weeds.

When a concerned resident contacted the King County Noxious Weed Program  alarmed that she had seen giant hogweed growing in a greenspace by her house in southeast Seattle, she set in motion the County’s noxious weed response plan. First step: A phone call and a site visit from a county noxious weed specialist.

Giant hogweed is a highly invasive Class A noxious weed that grows over 10 feet tall and causes painful burns on skin exposed to its sap. The noxious weed program had found it growing in that area of Seattle in the past, so the new report was likely to be correct.

Even if it turned out to be a false alarm, the risk of giant hogweed spreading and causing harm is high, so the county plan calls for a noxious weed specialist to check it out in person, educate the property owner and any residents, and ensure all hogweed plants get safely controlled. If people can’t control the hogweed by themselves, county staff will help.

King County follows up on all reported sightings of noxious weeds such as giant hogweed that are regulated under Washington’s Noxious Weed Law. Noxious weeds are non-native plants that impact natural resources, agriculture, and human health.

There are over 90 species of noxious weeds that state law requires property owners and public agencies to control on their properties in King County, 60 of which have been found growing in the county in the past. Regulated species are mostly the ones that are found in only a few locations where there is still a chance of eradication, or ones that have very serious potential impacts on people, farms or the environment. For the widespread noxious weeds, the county focusses on education and providing technical assistance. Noxious weed sightings can be reported to King County online.

Knowing which plants are the worst and how to control them is the specialty of King County’s noxious weed program personnel, and they are ready to teach anyone who needs or wants to know more. And if people can’t control their noxious weeds themselves but want to do the right thing, the noxious weed program will find a way to help them.

The 2018 King County Noxious Weed List spells out which noxious weeds fall under the regulated category according to the state law. The list also educates people about additional invasive plants that aren’t regulated but that are also harmful to people or impact the environment.

Among the new noxious weeds for 2018 are two species that are regulated: European coltsfoot and small-flowered jewelweed, and one that is recommended for control called spotted jewelweed. Information on the new state noxious weeds can be found on the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board website, along with more information on the state law and links to weed lists in other counties of Washington.

County residents can learn about noxious weeds by taking a free class on noxious weeds, visiting the program’s website and Noxious Weeds blog, or stopping by an information table at community events around the county. The noxious weed program also has a few specialty weed control tools for loan, such as large weed pullers for Scotch broom and injector tools for knotweed, and they offer vouchers for free disposal of regulated noxious weeds at county transfer stations.

The County’s noxious weed program is available to help residents learn to identify and control noxious weeds. Help is also available by calling the King County Noxious Weed Control Program at 206-477-9333 or by contacting Sasha Shaw, communication specialist for the noxious weed program at 206-477-4824 or [email protected].


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