Public weed hunt wilts

An environmental group seeks to stop Lake Tahoe's "triple threat," a group of weeds infesting the Tahoe Basin and threatening the clarity of Lake Tahoe.

The weeds are spreading fast, said Susan Donaldson, of the University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension office and chairwoman for The Tahoe Basin Weed Coordinating Group.

If the weeds continue to grow it will increase soil erosion, which could damage the quality of the water, she said.

"If it's one plant this year, it's going to be tons next year and hundreds the following year," Donaldson said. "We'd like to get them early in the state of infestation rather than when it's a huge problem."

On Saturday, the group asked people to look out for the three dangerous weeds and report them to members.

But Donaldson said there was little response. The group only received a few calls from South Lake Tahoe and none from residents on the North Shore.

"We were disappointed by the lack of response," Donaldson said.

Lake Tahoe residents and visitors were asked to look for spotted knapweed, diffuse knapweed and yellow starthistle.

Of the few calls the group received from South Shore, none turned out to be of these types of weeds. However, other types of dangerous weeds were removed.

The group is still on the lookout for the three types of weeds, and Donaldson said she is encouraging anyone to call and report the location of the weeds.

All weeds can be pulled without having to use pesticide, she said. When the weeds are reported, someone from the group will go to the location and pull the weed.

Yellow starthistle have one-inch thorns and grow up to 3 feet tall. They have yellow, thistle-like flowers and stems with cottony hairs.

Spotted knapweed have purple, thistle-like flowers and also grow up to 3 feet tall. The bract of the flower, pieces of leaves at the base of the petals, is sometimes spotted.

Diffused knapweed have white flowers, rough stems, and spiny bracts.

Donaldson said besides threatening the water, these weeds will cause other problems in the Tahoe Basin. They will disrupt the wildlife population and limit recreational use in the area they infest.

Yellow starthistle weeds have already infested between between 15 and 22 million acres of land in California, and have also been spotted in Washoe County.

If they infest the Tahoe Basin, Donaldson said Lake Tahoe would look like a completely different place.


To report spotted knapweed, diffuse knapweed or yellow starthistle call Susan Donaldson at the University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension at 784-4848.


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