By Shane Blair
Throughout Minnesota, new noxious weeds present themselves.
Some become very problematic for landowners and managers. Weeds can be found growing around a home setting, in community areas, and in a variety of natural habitats on both public and private lands. When weeds invade native landscapes, they reduce biological diversity and degrade habitats.
Identifying weeds can be a challenging and daunting task, especially when you are not familiar with plants. In addition to published weed books, there are many resources available to assist with plant identification, especially for noxious weeds. Noxious weeds are regulated plant species.
One of the greatest tools currently available is the internet. In Minnesota, there are numerous agencies that have articles, pictures, keys and other resources to assist with plant identification. These agencies and organizations include the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the University of Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center, University of Minnesota Extension, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Wildflowers and Midwest Invasive Plant Network (MIPN).
There are apps that people can download for free. One is called Great Lakes Early Detection Network (GLEDN) and is a great resource for weed identification. This app provides multiple pictures including the leaves, stem, bark and flower of various weeds. There is also information about the plant’s taxonomy and biology, and maps of where it has been confirmed.
Another app is called Minnesota Wildflowers. It’s currently only available for iOS users, but will soon be available for Android. This app has both native and non-native plants occurring in Minnesota.
Additional resources include agencies or local groups. Examples include the Duluth Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA), local county agricultural inspectors (CAI), and the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Many agencies such as MDA, DNR, Minnesota Department of Transportation and U-M Extension also help with weed identification. Contact them via email or phone — if you send pictures of the plant, they can help you with questions or concerns. Providing multiple photos that are clear and well-defined is the safest way to identify a plant: Some plants may turn out to be toxic or listed prohibited noxious weeds, and transporting that plant for identification could result in new infestations.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation publishes a guide that is filled with noxious wees, scientific and common names, descriptions with comparisons to look-alikes, best management practices and treatment timing. This publication is updated annually with the current noxious weed law regulations. Here is a link for the book PDF of the guide.
There are many routes individuals can take to identify a specific plant if they are concerned, or just curious. If the identified plant turns out to be a noxious weed, there are management practices that can be put into place for control and/or eradication.
Feel free to contact the MDA’s Noxious and Invasive Weed Program, DNR, MNDOT, or your local CAI for help with plant identification and control advice.
Blair is a member of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s weed team and is the state’s Palmer amaranth eradication coordinator.