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Thursday
Aug162012

Leafy Spurge – pretty wild flower or pretty costly?

 

Leafy spurge is an invasive, herbaceous perennial weed that infests more than five million acres of land in 35 states and the prairie provinces of Canada. It causes significant problems by invading grazing lands for cattle and horses, reducing rangeland productivity and cattle carrying capacity by 50-75 percent, decreasing plant diversity, degrading wildlife habitat, displacing sensitive species and drastically reducing land values.

Leafy spurge is an erect plant that grows 1 to 3 feet tall. Leaves are bluish-green with smooth margins, 0.25 inch to 0.5 inch wide, and 1 inch to 4 inches long. Umbel flowers are surrounded by heart-shaped, showy, yellow-green bracts. (An umbel looks like the stays of an umbrella if it is held upside down. Flowers occur in many clusters toward the top of the plant. Seeds are round to oblong, about 1/12 inch long, gray or mottled brown with a dark line on one side. Seeds are dispersed by birds, wildlife, humans, and in rivers and streams. Leafy spurge contains white milky latex in all plant parts. This latex is poisonous to some animals and can cause blistering and irritation on skin. The digestive tract is similarly affected when this plant is eaten by humans and some animals. In cattle it causes scours and weakness; when ingested in larger amounts it can cause death. Cattle usually refuse to eat leafy spurge unless it is given to them in dry, weedy hay or when better forage is not available.

The use of herbicides for leafy spurge control is just one part of long term management that should include good grazing strategies and can include grazing by sheep or goats or biological control by the release of insects. It’s important to continue yearly management as skipping a year can allow leafy spurge to re-infest rapidly. Extension educators and county weed supervisors are very good resources for weed management.

To help with the Leafy Spurge battle the Upper Loup Natural Resources District provides cost share funds for BOTH fall and spring treatment to landowners in the NRD area. Funds are available to cover 45% of the cost of approved chemicals (i.e.: Plateau for fall) up to $400 per landowner. The appropriate chemical herbicide can be applied by a landowner with private pesticide certification or by a certified commercial applicator. Applications for cost share assistance can be obtained by contacting Upper Loup NRD at 308-645-2250 or

downloading an application from our website at

www.upperloupnrd.org. Upper Loup NRD includes all of Grant, Hooker, Thomas, Blaine and Logan Counties and parts of Cherry, Brown and McPherson Counties.

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