Montana State University

Weed or wildflower? MSU publication can help you decide

March 26, 2009 -- By Jane Mangold MSU Extension Rangeland Weed Specialist

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
Spring has sprung and that means grass, wildflowers, and weeds will soon spring up again. A Montana State University Extension publication is available to help you tell the difference between a noxious weed and a wildflower.

While most welcome the return of green grass and flowers, we do not welcome troublesome weeds like Canada thistle and spotted knapweed. These two weeds, along with 30 other species, are designated "noxious" in Montana because they pose a threat to the state's economy and environment. A noxious weed is defined as an exotic plant species that may render land unfit for agriculture, forestry, livestock, wildlife or other beneficial uses or that harm native plant communities. Noxious weeds have the potential to decrease the economic and ecological value of land by decreasing forage for livestock and wildlife, displacing native plants, reducing plant diversity, and increasing erosion and sedimentation. Landowners are required by the Montana County Weed Control Act to prevent noxious weed spread on their property.

Properly identifying noxious weeds is critical for early detection and eradication of new weed infestations, containment of existing infestations, prevention of weed spread and implementation of appropriate control measures.

An MSU Extension publication is available to help you identify noxious weeds. This bulletin provides color photos and descriptions of 32 noxious weeds along with management options (prevention, biological control, cultivation, cutting and mowing, grazing, herbicides, hand pulling, mechanical removal) that may be effective for each species. Also listed are known toxicities to livestock and what category of noxious weed the species falls under. The weeds are arranged by flower color to assist in easy identification, and the spiral-bound publication is small enough to fit in your backpack, shirt pocket, or glove compartment.

If you're interested in obtaining a copy of Montana's Noxious Weeds to assist you in identifying weeds this spring and summer, contact MSU Extension publications ((406) 994-3273; Copies are available for $4 each. You can also obtain a copy of the publication from the Montana Weed Control Association (MWCA) by calling (406) 684-5590 or by sending an email to Copies from MWCA are $3 (includes shipping and handling).

Also available from MWCA are several weed publications, and a limited number of directories that list Extension agents, weed coordinators, and conservation districts for each county. Directories are $5 each plus shipping and handling. Call (406) 684-5590 for publication information and ordering.

Contact: Jane Mangold (406) 994-994-5513 or