Sacajawea Audubon
1Sep/13Off

Sacajawea Audubon Wages War On Burdock

Yellow Warbler caught in Burdock  -  photo by Robin Wolcott

Yellow Warbler caught in Burdock - photo by Robin Wolcott

You’ve probably noticed over the past several years that Burdock has proliferated at many of Bozeman’s most popular trailheads, and along the trails themselves.  Burdock is a particularly obnoxious weed which, in its second year of growth, can reach six feet in height and produce innumerable clusters of spiky flower balls.  As these flowers develop and mature into seed heads, they become an increasing danger to song birds, whose feathers can get caught in their grip and cause the birds to perish.  Beyond the threat to birds, burdock is a nuisance for dogs, livestock, and other forms of wildlife whose fur gets hopelessly tangled in the spiky flowers after brushing up against the plant.   So effective is burdock at attaching to fur, hair and clothing, that it was the inspiration for the invention of Velcro adhesives, which replicate the hook-tipped spikes of the seed-bearing flower head.

But now, as the end of summer nears, there is far less burdock to worry about in and around Bozeman’s popular trails.  This past August, a small army of Sacajawea Audubon volunteers has been diligently chopping off thousands of clusters of spiky burdock seed heads, bagging them up, and hauling them off to their final resting place – the Logan Landfill.  Once buried there, they can do no more harm to the environment.   And fortunately, because burdock only lives for two years, when the seed heads are destroyed, the plant will not produce again and will die.

This is the second year Sacajawea Audubon has spearheaded a movement to eradicate burdock from our area trails and favorite recreation sites.   Much progress was made last year to initially thwart the spread of millions of burdock seeds into the environment.  This year, two-year old plants were preparing to unleash their fusillade of seeds upon Gallatin Valley when Audubon volunteers successfully counter attacked – an estimated sixteen 15-gallon bags of seed heads have been hauled to the landfill as the result of this herculean effort.  (Incidental amounts of spotted knapweed and hoary alyssum have also been removed from the environment in this process…)

Depending on how long burdock seeds remain viable after dispersal (hopefully not more than two years), there is an excellent chance that the scourge of burdock-infested trails in and around Bozeman could be all but eliminated in the next couple of years.  So plans are already being made to attack the burdock problem again in 2014, and again in 2015, until victory has been achieved!

Areas where significant progress toward the eradication of burdock has been made thus far include: East Gallatin Park and trail system; the “M” trailhead and trail; the Drinking Horse trailhead; the Story Mill Spur Trail and the Sourdough Trail.

Please plan on volunteering next year and join in the effort to control burdock.  The birds (and dogs and horses and deer and bear) will thank you!

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