My son and I had an adventure this week to “hunt thistles”. It was actually a chore, but we had to make it fun somehow, so hunting it was.
We had two different types of thistles in our pasture – musk and canada. Both have pretty, purple flowers, but they have thorns and “pokey” as Chisum would say.
They are both noxious weeds. And these weeds are harmful for pastures and farm ground because they are competitive to the native grasses or crops and are very persistent. Most states have a Noxious Weed Act that prohibits these weeds on all property and requires local governments to enforce this law – so it’s important for us to get rid of these.
There are a few ways to get rid of noxious weeds: mechanical control involves repeated pulling, cutting and covering; cultural control is intended to reduce noxious weed populations by providing an environment that discourages weed growth like establishing a good native vegetation cover, mulching and rotational grazing; and biological control uses organisms, such as insects or fungal diseases, to control some noxious weeds.
I chose the mechanical method – aka a shovel! – for the short term to chop off the thistle heads and dig up the root of the plants. Yet, our family practices rotational grazing on our pastureland with our cattle which helps the overall health of the grass. The areas that I was finding the thistles were in the creek bed where recent flooding has brought in more noxious weed varieties.
So while “thistle hunting” is one chore of summer for farmers and ranchers, we also had some fun and discovered a “unicorn caterpillar”, a couple of prickly pear cacti that looked like hands, and fun in the sandy creek bed.