Next time you’re picking petals off those pretty
daisies in the backyard, it’s probably a good idea
to make a bouquet or two: they’re most likely the
Oxeye Daisy, a harmful noxious weed. With ‘creeping
roots’ and seeds that remain in the soil for over
30 years, this invasive species spreads quickly from
roadsides into yards, meadows and anywhere it can
hold ground.

“People will mow around the daisies because they
think they’re pretty, but they are so harmful,” said
Jen Mohler, coordinator of the Gallatin/Big Sky
noxious Weed Committee.

Mohler beamed as she pointed to a picture of the
1,000 pounds of weeds pulled by hand this spring in
Big Sky. “It was a big deal,” she said.

So, what’s the big deal?

Noxious weeds are plants that agricultural authorities
have labeled as harmful to agriculture, livestock and
native ecosystems. Although some are native, most
are invasive species that grow and spread quickly and
don’t have anything controlling them naturally.

These plants are a serious ecological and environmental
threat to Montana’s natural resources because they take
over native plant communities, harm crop growth,
alter wildlife habitat, reduce forage for wildlife and
livestock and limit biodiversity of ecosystems, according
to the Gallatin/Big Sky Noxious Weed Committee.

In some cases, noxious weeds increase soil surface
runoff and sedimentation into streams. Some scientists
believe this the beginning of desertification,
according to information from the Montana Noxious
Weed Program. These pesky plants also reduce
property values, making it difficult to sell a home.
Montana has approximately 7.6 million acres
infested with state-listed invasive weeds, according
to the Gallatin/Big Sky Noxious Weed Committee.
Many of these are expensive to control if not
detected early.

It’s the law

The first weed legislation in Montana was passed in
1895. A noxious weed program was established in
1921. Since that time additional laws and rules have
been enacted, and eight laws currently affect weed
management.
The Montana County Noxious Weed Control Law,
established in 1948, created weed management districts
throughout the state and made it unlawful for
property owners to allow noxious weeds to spread
on their property. The Montana County Weed Control
Act gives counties the responsibility to control
the spread of noxious weeds.
The Montana Noxious Weed Trust Fund, a grant
program established by the 1985 Montana Legislature,
provides funding and research for the development
and implementation of weed management
programs in the state.

I’m a homeowner. Now what?

In Big Sky, most property owners are responsible
for managing noxious weeds on their own property,
according to the Big Sky Homeowners Association.
Most homeowner’s associations provide
weed-removal services.
The Gallatin/Big Sky Noxious Weed Committee
was formed by group of naturalists in 2004 and is
a great local resource. Call (406) 209-0905 or visit
bigskyweeds.org for free information on identifying
weeds and how to independently remove
them. The website also has a list of over 50 weed
removal businesses in Southwest Montana.

Beware Chemicals

When considering removal, be wary of chemical
use, warns Matt Lavin, a professor of Plant Biology
at MSU. “I’m not against controlling plants, because
otherwise they’ll take over,” Lavin said. “I pull
weeds in my own backyard, but the war on weeds
concept has engendered chemical use in our society.”
Lavin suggests reading the labels on herbicide before
spraying, and still believes in the argument from Rachel
Carson’s Silent Spring, maintaining that the use
of chemicals is harming a whole lot more than plants.
But the solution to overuse of chemicals would require
“changing a whole culture that revolves around
spraying,” Lavin said. “Changing a culture, now that’s
tough.”

Wildflower and Weed Hikes

Join Mohler and her team host various
weed removal events throughout the
year, including Ophir School outreach,
guided hikes and education programs.
The hikes include discussion
and what residents can do to help
eradicate weeds.

Saturday, Aug. 13
Crail Ranch
9 a.m. – noon

Saturday, Sept. 10
Porcupine Creek
9 a.m. – noon