Download weed post on Schutter Diagnostic Lab activities for 2018 as a PDF (contains word puzzle)


The Schutter Diagnostic Laboratory (SDL) at Montana State University (MSU) is a service provided through MSU Extension. The SDL safeguards Montana agriculture, landscapes and public spaces from plant pests by offering identification services, management advice, and education (Fig. 1). The mission of the SDL also includes early detection of new and invasive pests that may pose a risk to Montana and to the U.S. We receive samples from MSU Extension agents, weed district coordinators, homeowners, farmers, ranchers, consultants, and others interested in plant issues. In 2018, the SDL conducted 3,223 plant, plant disease, insect, mushroom, and abiotic diagnoses in 52 Montana counties and three additional states.

Plant identification activities

When not working in the Schutter Diagnostic Lab, diagnosticians help with workshops like the one shown here that was held in Missoula (photo credit Sarah Eilers)

Figure 1. When we aren't working in the lab, we also help with workshops like this one held in Missoula. (photo credit Sarah Eilers)

In 2018, the SDL processed 345 physical specimens for plant identification, and about 300 electronic samples (i.e. photos in emails, texts, and through our sample submission app). Clients submitted plants with a variety of questions including whether a plant might be noxious or invasive, toxic, or what its forage value may be. Fifty percent of these samples were exotic plants. The most commonly submitted exotic species were roving bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides, 8), cutleaf vipergrass (Scorzonera laciniata, 6), and ventenata (Ventenata dubia, 5). Thirty two percent of physical samples were native plants. The most common native species were Douglas’s knotweed (Polygonum douglasii, 4) and western aster (Symphyotrichum ascendens, 4).

Our services provide an essential resource for first detectors of high priority pests. For example, we identified several samples of the emerging invasive annual grass ventenata in 2018 (Fig. 2), including a first report for one Montana county. We also provided trainings and workshops that included information about identification of this pest.

Other notable samples

Ventenata, an exotic invasive grass, was one of the most common submissions to the Schutter Diagnostic Lab in 2018 (photo credit Stacy Davis).

Figure 2. Ventenata, an exotic invasive grass, was one of the most common submissions to the SDL in 2018. (photo credit Stacy Davis).

Accurate plant identification is critical in assessing plant toxicity, and we assisted clients with poisonous plant issues in 2018. For example, this year we processed several samples of berries that clients had used to make jam without first knowing the identity of the berries. In some cases the berries used were toxic, and we advised clients not to consume the jam.

Get in touch with the SDL

If you have a plant you would like help identifying, you can 1) take the plant to your county or reservation Extension agent (for Montana residents) or 2) submit a sample to SDL for identification. You can find more information online at Schutter Diagnostic Lab. We recently launched a smartphone app called the “Plant Sample Submission App” for an additional way to receive samples. Instructions on how to download and use the APP can be found at Sample submission app. You can also connect with us on the Schutter Diagnostic Lab Facebook page