Monday, May 10, 2021

Perseverance important in fighting puncturevine

| May 2, 2021 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — Not everything that grows in the yard is good for the yard. They don’t call those spindly vines with the yellow flowers “weeds” for nothing.

Technically, those are puncturevine, also known as goatheads. Not only are they unwelcome in any yard, they’re officially a noxious weed, according to the Grant County Noxious Weed Control Board.

In a residential area, they can be found along sidewalks, driveways and at the edge of the lawn, according to information from the weed control board. The mean, nasty little seeds are sharp enough to puncture bike tires and even shoes. And they can wreak havoc if animals step on them -- not just dogs and cats, but horses, goats, sheep and cattle. They’re no fun for an animal who gets a seed in the fur, either.

So, it’s important to stop them in their tracks. And the best way to do that is -- OK, does anybody remember the movie “Caddyshack?” Remember how Bill Murray had that endless war with the gophers?

Craig Hintz, noxious weed board coordinator, just sighed when asked about how to get rid of goatheads.

“Once you see that yellow flower, it’s time to act. Because they’re quick,” Hintz said.

Those yellow flowers mean they’re going to seed, and the seeds are what cause most of the trouble. A puncturevine seed actually is four seeds in one pod, and each germinates at a different rate, Hintz said. Miss some of the seeds, and the puncturevine, like the Terminator, will be back.

“They’re going to come back up in three weeks,” Hintz said. “They’re smart. It’s just crazy how plants have developed to survive.”

Hintz said it’s important to go after them when they first appear and they’re still small, and this time of year is when homeowners should be vigilant.

“They’re going to start showing up about now,” Hintz said.

The trick is to get them early, and to stick with weed control over the summer. Hintz said they’re relatively easy to remove when they’re small by cutting them off with a hoe, digging them out with a shovel or just pulling them out.

“That little yellow flower is the first telltale sign,” he said.

But -- like Bill Murray and the gophers -- it could take a while. Seeds can stay in the soil for up to five years. Homeowners will have to keep working on it, and over time they will reduce the seeds in the ground.

There are chemicals that work, but they have side effects that may kill plants homeowners want to keep, Hintz said. If the plant gets to the point of making seeds it should still be removed.

If the plant has produced seeds, it should be bagged after removal and any seeds should be picked up. Hintz said stray seeds can be picked up by using an old piece of carpet placed upside down. The seeds will adhere to the carpet, he said.


Grant County Noxious Weed Board/courtesy photo

Puncturevine can wreak havoc if it’s allowed to spread.