‘Pretty flowers’ and plants can be out of place in range and pasture

by By Aaron Berger | Nebraska Extension Beef Systems Educator

Bull Thistle
The beauty of the Bull Thistle is misleading, as the plant is a noxious weed. Photo by Chabella Guzman
June 14, 2024

Lincoln, Neb. —Late May and June are the months when we frequently see both native and non-native forbs begin to flower in range and pasture. This is a good time of the year to be on the alert and look out for these “pretty flowers” and for other plants that you may not recognize. Seeing something you haven’t seen before? Go check it out. Those “pretty flowers” or plants you don’t recognize may be a plant that is an invasive species. Early detection and rapid response are critical to helping to keep noxious weeds at bay. By identifying and dealing with invasive species when they are few, the cost and impact of their presence can be minimized.

Some common invasive species that are flowering or soon will be this time of year include: Leafy spurge, dalmatian toad flax, field bindweed, Canada thistle, scotch thistle, bull thistle, musk thistle, spotted and diffuse knapweed, as well as common mullein. Other species such as absinth wormwood and sericea lespedeza are invasive species that don’t have big and robust brightly colored flowers but are also ones to be on the lookout for. Preventing noxious weeds from going to seed is important for reducing seed spread. If the plant is already in the flowering stage, cutting off seed heads prior to killing the plant will help to eliminate seed spread. Bagging and properly disposing of seed heads avoids the potential that viable seeds on plants can spread.

Have questions about the plant you are seeing? Nebraska Extension has Educators and Specialists who can help you identify that plant. Bring in a plant or send a picture, and we will work with you to identify if that “pretty flower” belongs to a native plant that you can enjoy or if it is something you need to control. The Nebraska Weed Control Association website https://neweed.org/ is an excellent resource on noxious weeds in Nebraska. If you are looking for herbicide options to control invasive species, the Nebraska Extension 2024 Guide to Weed Management is an excellent reference guide.

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