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Crew to remove invasive species from Hood Canal

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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When the Japanese knotweed stakes its roots, it can grow up to 12 feet tall and expand underground for up to 30 feet. Its pretty white petals make for an attractive ornament along riverbeds - the only problem is it wipes out most of the native, natural plant species it encounters in Mason County.

Through a grant from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the Mason Conservation District is hiring a crew to remove the invasive, non-native plant, and others like it, from southern Hood Canal, restoring the natural habitat and nutrient cycle of the watershed.

"The Japanese knot-weed is a notorious noxious weed," said John Bolender, district manager of the Mason Conservation District. "It just takes over native vegetation and shades it out and strangles it. It will take about five years of efforts to actually eradicate the weed; it's a nasty bugger."

Partnering with the Conservation District are the Skokomish Tribe, the Hood Canal Coordinating Council and the Mason County Noxious Weed Control Board.

The process to remove knotweed can be very labor intensive, said Patricia Grover, coordinator for the weed board and a member of the Olympic Knotweed Working Group, an organization that's been treating knotweed on the Olympic Peninsula for seven years.

"It's a little harder to get rid of than just going out and pulling it up," she said. You can inject or spray the plant with the herbicide glyphosate, but the injection tends to be the most effective, she said.

There are four species of knotweed - Japanese, giant, bohemian and Himalayan - and Mason County is "fortunate or not" to have all four, Grover said.

Knotweed was introduced to Washington from Japan, though there are many stories as to how that may have happened, she said. The edible plant could have been brought as an ingredient for recipes, or as a garden ornament or through fishermen whose boats have passed through many watersheds.

One story has it that a fisherman bought it thinking it was bamboo, since its hollow stem resembles it, Grover said. When he tried to use it as a fishing pole, however, it fell apart.

"Like so many noxious weeds, it was introduced with good intentions, but without any natural controls it will get out of hand quickly," she said. It's also resilient - the entire plant can grow back from just a small broken stem.

Removing knotweed is important because it doesn't perform the same functions as a native plant, Grover said.

"It can't contribute in the same way, so then you've lost your willows, you've lost your alders and you've lost your nutrient cycle," she said.

The $344,044 grant will fund a crew from the Washington Conservation Corps to treat about 10 miles of knotweed infestations, while planting at least 200 acres of native trees.

Through this grant and another one from sub-departments of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, the Mason Conservation District will restore nearly 400 acres Th the Hood Canal watershed in the next three to four years.

"This is a piece of a much bigger puzzle," Bolender said.

If you know of a knot-weed infestation that needs to be treated, call the project's manager, Kevin Dub-lanica, at (360) 427-9436, extension 15.

Copyright 2010 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: January 21, 2010

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