Visitors worldwide use ‘Weed of the Month’ resource


Steve Van Vleet,
WSU Whitman
County Extension

COLFAX – Most people can recognize the average weed: thistle and dandelion, for example, are pretty easy to identify. But WSU Whitman County Extension has created a website feature to help the average person identify all kinds of invasive weeds – no matter how pretty they may be.
“Weed of the Month,” put together by extension educator Stephen Van Vleet, features photos and detailed information about specific invasive weeds found in the state of Washington. A new weed is added each month, creating a colorful array.

Rush skeleton weed                                                       
Canada thistle
Van Vleet, who earned his master’s degree in entomology and a doctoral degree in agronomy, said he always has been interested in weeds. Since he started working at WSU, he has wanted to give people the most current and factual weed information.
“Weeds are one major factor to economic and environmental loss of land and depreciation of property values,” he said. “Weeds cost this country more than $140 billion every year.”
The website is updated by Ken Hathaway, the former master gardener for Whitman County. Van Vleet said the site is used by people all over the world and the number of visitors has increased since the site launched in 2006. More than 4,700 visitors in 2006 has increased to 28,067 in 2009.
Many other WSU county extensions provide invasive weed web pages, but many are not as up-to-date as Whitman County’s. Van Vleet said it is dedication to provide education that motivates his team to keep the site updated.
“The feedback I get is extremely important. Sometimes all it takes is a ‘thank you’ or someone contacting me to learn more about weeds that makes it all worthwhile,” he said.
Though many of the weeds shown on the site are attractive, and may not even be considered weeds by some people (daisy, lupine, potentilla, Scotch broom, Russian olive), Van Vleet said they are a serious problem throughout all ecosystems, not just in agriculture or gardening. Classifying which weeds are worst would depend on whether a person is a rancher, a home owner or just someone who doesn’t like weeds, he said.

Tansy ragwort                                                              
Daltoad plant
The worst three weeds shown on the site are probably leafy spurge, Dalmatian toadflax and rush skeletonweed, Van Vleet said. These plants spread by roots and seeds, so each piece of a root or seed can form a whole new plant.
“Everyone needs to take an active role in preventing the spread of invasive plants,” Van Vleet said. “This all starts with education.”
Whitman County ‘s Weed of the Month website can be found here.