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Town of Colfax resident proposes invasive plant survey

By LeAnn R. Ralph

TOWN OF COLFAX — A Town of Colfax resident is proposing that volunteers survey the ditches in the township to identify invasive plant species and locations.

Kathy Stahl, a resident in the Town of Colfax and formerly the host of Spectrum West on Wisconsin Public Radio, appeared before the Colfax Plan Commission January 23 to talk about invasive plant species.

 Stahl also is a member of the newly-formed organization called the West Central Wisconsin Invasive Plant Management Area.

Some of the plants Stahl talked about included garlic mustard, Japanese knotweed, spotted knapweed, common buckthorn, reed canary grass, and wild parsnip.

The invasive species are non-native plants, although not all non-native plants are invasive species, Stahl noted.

The invasives shade out native plants and form a monoculture so that other plants cannot grow, she said.

Garlic mustard will shade out everything on a forest floor.

Japanese knotweed can grow through concrete and through foundations.

Spotted knapweed produces a chemical that kills neighboring plants and can take over a pasture.

Wild parsnip creates blistering, itching, weeping sores when skin exposed to the parsnip is exposed to the sun.

Reed canary grass, which was originally planted by farmers as a forage crop, chokes out all other plants in low-lying and wetland areas, including small trees.

“We need to get citizens involved so they can learn to identify (the invasive plants) and can learn to control them,” Stahl said.

Some smaller infestations can be pulled or cut and that will limit or eliminate the spread of the plants, she said.

Chemicals can sometimes, however, be the best way to control plant infestations, Stahl said.

Pepin County has made a map of the ditches with the locations of invasive plant species and has given the map to the county’s highway department, she said.

Once the Pepin County highway department knows where the invasive species are, highway crews will go out and mow down or spray the plants, Stahl said.

“Maybe the Town of Colfax could be a pilot project for Dunn County,” she said.

Volunteers would do the roadside surveys and could include students from biology classes at Colfax High School, Stahl said.

Unfortunately, invasive plant species will not stay on the roadside and the information should be made available to landowners, too, she said.

A survey of invasive plant species could be a variation on flower collections done by the students, said Mark Mosey, biology teacher at Colfax High School.

Mosey attended the Town of Colfax Plan Commission meeting along with one of his students.

Some nurseries sell the invasive plant species for people to plant in their flower gardens and yards, noted Pat Eggert, Town of Colfax resident.

“Many of the plants are pretty. And many times people don’t know the plants they are buying are invasive,” Stahl said.

For more information on invasive plant species visit: