Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Kansas Kudzu

We had a day of sunshine following several wet and cloudy ones in in the Osage Cuestas region of Kansas. After the evening meal, which is still called "supper" by many here, I took off into the remaining sunlight to hunt Carduus nutans, or musk thistle. It is one of the 14 noxious weeds of Kansas. Despite its spiny beauty, twenty-four other states think poorly of it.

The musk thistle was brought to this country from Eurasia by environmentalists, people with good intentions wanting to make their life more green and spiny. America was very good to Carduus nutans, for it grows so well here it can choke out native grasses if its seeds are allowed to spread with the wind. Each plant can produce more than 20,000 seeds. The pods open up and burst within 7-10 days just like dandelions.

Most farmers and ranchers could care less about dandelions. Noxious weeds do cause a lot of worry. There are 28 pages of state regulations on nothing but invasive weeds. Nature spreads seeds, native or not, for the benefit and bane of us "People of the South Wind."

So rather than look at all the pretty flowers, I cut musk thistle blooms until dark. I came back with Ruby the lab and a full, tall-kitchen trash bag of the nettlesome critters. About half of them were along county roads upwind of our pastures. The remainder were along the dense, 140-year-old bois d'arc rows where the hay equipment and brush hog can't go.

Maybe Al Gore and T. Boone Pickens can figure out a way to make biofuel from musk thistle, kudzu, Johnsongrass, bur ragweed, and sericea lespedeza so we can have a real cash crop.

I'll go back tomorrow and get the rest. It's supposed to rain.

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