Weed Zapper's School
By Joyce Wolff
Photos by Walt Wolff

We came away from Weed Zapper's school on Saturday, 12 May, determined to do battle with nature. Carol Rawle, former California State Park Ranger, led her band of Santa Fe Trail Ranch students through an excellent presentation on several dreaded thistle species, knapweed, and their persistent invasion on to Ranch properties. She displayed several specimens of "noxious weeds," so designated by the State of Colorado (for closer observation).

The Colorado Weed Management Act of 1990 requires property owners to control noxious weeds and allows the state, after due process, to spray the weeds then charge for their service plus penalties.

National Resources Conservation Service representatives, local ranchers, and cattlemen are very vocal about the need to control noxious weeds. Kenn Lutz of the local office describes really unpleasant scenarios when noxious weeds are out of control. He sees the results of no weed control every day because property owners don't take the problem seriously. Not only is it important for the Property Owners Association (POA) to treat common areas, but also each Ranch property owner has an obligation to his fellow property owners to treat his own.

Stewardship of your land requires you to investigate your property to learn where the weeds grow. Thistle is a plant of disturbed soil so will not be found under a slope of ponderosa pine and oak. But it will be found in arroyos, drainages, or road cuts where erosion, cattle, or construction have loosened the soil preparing it for a seed invasion.

Carol Rawle displays her samples of noxious weeds

Bill Wenstrom relayed the expensive quotes, from $5,000 to $7,000, that the POA has received from professional sprayers. If the POA is forced to spend those funds to spray weeds, some other need must go untended. Although a labor-intensive project it is certainly possible with everyone's cooperation and participation. He points out "there are no other areas of the budget where we, as individuals willing to lend a hand, can have a larger positive influence."

Ranch map showing past spraying procedures

Bill also displayed June Stephen's carefully prepared Ranch map indicating the areas that were professionally sprayed last year. The Ranch has been treated for weeds in the past, but June's excellent map is the only record of past efforts to eradicate or at least slow down the spread of these weeds.

Gallinas Canyon was lovely in spring green

Carol led us to a lovely typical meadow in Gallinas Canyon where we were overwhelmed: first by how tricky it is to identify one thistle species from another and, second, by how many thistle plants there are just beginning to spread their thorny rosettes over the ground, sometimes growing densely side by side. The scope of the problem is daunting.

Canada thistle

Musk thistle

Scotch thistle

Gallinas Canyon was beautiful even though some of the trees and oak are yet to show leaves. The little stream was running cold and clear and wild flowers carpeted the ground. Tiny yellow violets, delicate but tough filaree or cranesbill, and lovely clusters of sand lilies enchanted us with their fragile spring beauty. Well, the dandelions were not exactly enchanting, but they were cheerful. Most of us were wishing that dandelions were the foe and not, as Carol called them, the mafia of the weed world - thistle. The thistle, left uncontrolled, will eventually replace flowers and grasses.

Emerging thistle accounts for much of this pleasant
green mat on the Gallinas Canyon floor

The Weed Project will be held on Memorial Day Weekend. Bill Wenstrom is working out the details. Please see his article (Click Here) on the Website along with Carol's (Click Here ) on thistle identification.