Have you noticed the bright yellow flowers appearing in shaggy clusters along Pacific County’s roads and in vacant lots in recent weeks? This plant is tansy ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris), and it is not a nice plant. Tansy ragwort is highly toxic to humans and livestock. When ingested it can cause bloody diarrhea, liver failure, and a myriad of other unpleasant symptoms, including death. Alkaloids found throughout the plant are metabolized into more toxic forms by enzymes in the liver. These toxic metabolites accumulate and eventually cause irreversible damage, including cirrhosis and liver failure. Chronic and repeated exposure to these toxins poses the greatest risk. Tansy is a common problem in pastures and rangeland, where it easily outcompetes native vegetation and reduces available grazing acreage. Most animals will avoid grazing on fresh tansy in the field because it has a bitter taste. But when cut and dried, it retains its toxic properties and loses the bitterness. Tansy hidden in a hayfield can be easily harvested, sold, and served as animal feed before anybody is the wiser.
Tansy ragwort also poses a threat to humans as a contaminant in our food production system. A wide variety of products, including: milk, flour, and herbal remedies can become contaminated with tansy alkaloids during production and still make it to market. Several studies have even found that honey produced from the nectar of tansy ragwort flowers contains hazardous levels of the toxic alkaloids and should be considered a threat to human health. This is one of the reasons that pediatricians recommend not feeding honey to babies.
Spring May Be Here Sooner Than You Think.
There is a certain order to things. Every year around this time, dark green shoots erupt from the earth, in the same spots from which they emerged in years prior. These little green flags flying in the breeze signal the start of a new year in the worlds of plants. Soon, the unmistakable message that spring is here will be blasted from the blazing yellow trumpets that sit atop those green stems. They are the daffodils; a beloved and welcome harbinger to the eruption of life and color that will soon follow.
As the daffodils wake from their hibernation, we should take a moment to appreciate their beauty and also to recognize that soon we will see an explosion of plant growth, and that, sadly, much of that growth will be in the form of invasive plants and noxious weeds. Unlike daffodils, noxious weeds are plants that will damage and can even destroy the ecosystem in which they are established. Invasive plants can be deemed “noxious weeds” for various reasons (e.g. animal toxicity, aggressive reproduction, threat to native species/agriculture, etc.), but all of them share the potential to cause harm to people, wildlife, or habitat in one form or another.
The Pacific County Noxious Weed Control Board has been funded via property tax assessment since 2019. The assessment funds help to ensure a robust noxious weed control program here in Pacific County. Thank you, Pacific County, for helping us to keep improving.
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On Wednesday February 7, interested citizens from across Pacific County gathered at the Cranberry Museum in Long Beach for Management Options for Invasive Weeds, presented by the Friends of the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. Speakers Dr. Kim Patten (WSU Long Beach) and Jeff Nesbitt (Pacific County Noxious Weed Board) gave an informative presentation about local noxious weed threats and what people can do to combat them. The Pacific County Noxious Weed Control Board provided a great selection of useful educational materials, all of which are still available by request.