SPRINGFIELD, Mo- It is time to talk to the Answer Man, Steve Pokin from the Springfield News-Leader joins us this morning.
You’re the Answer Man, what question will you be answering today?
Answer Man: I was driving along Norton Road when I spotted some musk thistle, a plant considered a noxious weed. I think as recently as five years ago there was a musk thistle hotline to call – and someone would come out and get rid of the weed. Is there still a hotline? Does anyone still care? – Edwina Clingan, just outside Springfield city limits
I drove over to Edwina’s house and we went on a musk thistle expedition.
I wanted to see firsthand this public menace – as declared by the state of Missouri – and look it right in the seed pod.
Edwina directed me to a spot within the Interstate 44 right of -way, near the PJC Insurance Agency LLC building at 1801 W. Norton Road.
And there they were, a whole bunch of them, acting like they belonged here.
The plants were dried and spikey. They had passed the point of flowering and, presumably, had already dispensed an estimated 20,000 seeds per plant.
Musk thistle plants live for two years, spreading their unwanted seeds in the second year.
Musk thistle plants are not wanted here – or in most of this nation.
They originated in Europe and Asia, and the best theory is that they snuck into the United States in the 1800s through ballast water, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Library of Agriculture.
I’m not sure even a wall would have stopped them.
If you want to know why they are considered noxious, take a look at this YouTube video, titled “Weed of the Week 682: Musk Thistle.”
The problem is that noxious weeds like Public Enemy No. 682 multiply like crazy and drive out native species, such as grasses, that cattle often graze upon.
According to the Department of Conservation, musk thistle is often found in fallow fields and pastures, and along roads and railroads. “It is a major weed in range and pasture land, a nuisance pest along rights-of-way, and a looming nightmare for lands in conservation reserve programs.”
According to Missouri law:
“The plant musk thistle (Carduus nutans L.), Scotch thistle (Onoprodum acanthium L.) and Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) are hereby designated as noxious weeds. All owners of land shall control all such plants growing upon their land.”
It can be controlled by herbicides and, in some cases, with the introduction of the thistle weevil, whose larvae feed on the leaves and the base of the developing flower.
In this battle against the musk thistle, I wondered, who ensures the plant is controlled?
The law states it’s the local county prosecutor. There is a $100 fine:
“… If any owner of such land shall knowingly allow any Canada, musk or Scotch thistles to grow thereon, such owner shall forfeit and pay the sum of one hundred dollars to the county commission for every such offense, and such sum forfeited plus court costs may be recovered by civil action instituted by the prosecuting attorney in the name of the county commission before any associate circuit judge of the county in which the offense is committed.
“All sums recovered by virtue of this section shall be paid to the use of the county control fund.”
But local prosecutors must first contact the landowner by certified mail:
“… and shall allow the owner of the land fifteen days from acknowledgment date of return receipt, or date of refusal of acceptance, as the case may be, to control all such plants growing upon his land.
“Failure of the owner to control such plants within the fifteen-day period shall be prima facie evidence of the owner’s knowledge that he is in violation of this law, and each fifteen days the violation continues after the initial fifteen-day period shall, for the purpose of forfeiture and penalty herein, be considered a separate offense.”
So back to your question, Edwina: Who ya gonna call? (Other than me.)
Francis Skalicky, with the Department of Conservation, says it’s not his agency.
David Burton, with the University of Missouri Extension Service in Springfield, says it’s not his agency.
I called the spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Agriculture but did not hear back.
But we’re in luck, Edwina.
Angela Eden, the spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Transportation, says her department is responsible for controlling all of the state’s noxious weeds on its property and rights of way – such as the ones we saw along the interstate.
I suspect – the way the law is written – all state agencies bear the same responsibility.
Edwina, here’s the number to report musk thistle to the Missouri Department of Transportation: 888-275-6636.
Keep those questions coming. Send them to The Answer Man at 417-836-1253, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @stevepokinNL or by mail to 651 Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65806.