BRIGHAM CITY — There’s a new resident in Box Elder County, and it has been sent an eviction notice.
The yellow starthistle has sprung up in two areas of the county — at the Box Elder and Weber county line near Rocky Point, and within Brigham City, said county weed supervisor Bill Gilson.
The weed sports a pretty bright-yellow flower, but it’s surrounded by vicious spikes, nearly an inch long. The plant makes its better-known cousin, the bushy purple Scotch thistle, look downright lovable.
“It’s not a very good plant,” Gilson said of the yellow starthistle. “I’d much rather have dyer’s woad than this.”
The Box Elder Commission recently accepted a $2,500 grant from the Utah Weed Supervisor Association to target the invasive plant.
The county is working with larger landowners near the county line to spray the weed, which for some reason seems to love harsh areas such as those around gravel pits, said Commissioner Brian Shaffer.
In addition, the yellow starthistle is growing on the north side of Brigham City, near Wheatland Seed on State Road 39, Gilson said.
“It’s ironic that you have a store” that sells useful seeds, he said, “and noxious weeds right next door.”
The county has also approved a $10,000 grant fund from its weed budget that will be open to individual landowners and groups. Beginning in the fall, applications will be accepted from those who want to target their own weeds, which Shaffer said would include any on the county’s list of noxious weeds.
Gilson said the grant will focus on spring and fall spraying, because some weeds respond better to fall applications.
Much of the weed division’s efforts are focused on two bad actors: the rush skeleton, which is new to the county, and the Medusahead rye.
Both are invasive and choke out other plants to become a “monoculture,” Gilson said, adding that the noxious plants “really have no redeeming agricultural value as feed for livestock or wildlife.”
The rush skeleton sounds like its name. Growing to about 4 feet tall, this spindly plant sprouts long rushlike upper branches.
The outbreak area is around the Golden Spike National Historic Site near Promontory and north of Howell. Gilson believes the weed is an import from Idaho, where it is common around the Boise and Twin Falls areas.
The Medusahead rye easily chokes out other native grasses.
“It’s the only one I’ve ever seen that competes with cheatgrass,” Gilson said. “That tells you something.”
As for the yellow starthistle, Box Elder County is focusing on spraying herbicides. Unlike the larger, leafier Scotch thistle, which can grow up to 5 feet tall, the starthistle has scraggly, thinner leaves; its maximum height is about 18 inches.
“There are several ways to control it,” Gilson said. “Our main focus is on mapping and spraying with herbicide. We want to keep it within its boundaries and not spread.”
Other agencies, he added, have put their efforts into biocontrol — “using bugs.”
Shaffer said as part of the county’s $304,000 weed-control budget for 2012, some equipment is available for loan to land- and homeowners wanting to spray their own properties.
Much of the county’s efforts go toward maintaining rights of way along county roads.
“If we can’t take care of our own weeds on county rights of way, we won’t be of much use to any other landowners,” Gilson said. “When you have close to 1,400 miles of roads, it’s an effort to spray and take care of them.”
The county then reseeds areas that have been sprayed.