Letter to the Editor

Landowners must fight thistles now

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Dear Editor:

Have you looked at the hayfields and pastures of Barry County lately? Many are being taken over by an insidious enemy: the Musk thistle. When my family moved to this country 24 years ago, Musk thistles were nowhere to be seen. Farmers were battling the Bull thistle, but its armies were small compared to those of its rapacious cousin. Neither of these noxious weeds are native Missouri plants. Musk thistles have only recently become prevalent in this area.
The invasion of a field begins in the springtime with the growth of a flat rosette of prickly leaves that grows close to the ground. The second year the plant bolts (gets tall), flowers, makes seed and dies. The prickly plant bears beautiful dark pink flowers about two inches in diameter. When these flowers make downy seeds during June and July, the wind carries them far and near. The next year where there was one plant there will be 50. Soon there will be thousands and the field has been taken. Cows and horses will not graze near these unpleasant plants and even goats will not eat them. They are not a welcome component of hay bales.
Please look at your land and kill any Musk thistles that your fields or right-of-ways are harboring. The important thing is not to allow this biennial plant to make seed. Look for a thorny green plant with twisting leaves and the characteristic dark pink flowers. It may be small, with only one stem, or tall and much branched. You will need clippers and gloves for your hands. You may want to cut down the whole plant and burn it. An alternative is to clip off only the flowers and bring them home in a bucket or a sack to burn. Some fields are already so beset that the plants ought to be mowed, raked into piles and burned before the flowers mature.
If you would like more information about identifying thistles, look at this MU extension web page: http://extension.missouri.edu/explore/agguides/pests/ipm1015.htm.


Judy L. Meadows

Cassville, Missouri