Tom's Blog

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mullein control in the East Basin

Mullein (Verbascum thapsis), also called flannel plant, is a large sprawling weed that loves to colonize bare ground. It is a biennial which in its second years sends up a very tall flowering stalk that makes lots of seeds. To control these second year plants, one has to pull or dig them, being certain to get the roots. Because of their large size, they are a pain to pull.

In the East Basin we have a very large amount of mullein, all first year plants. They colonized all the bare ground we created when we removed all the trees in this habitat. Instead of pulling, we are spraying with Garlon 4 herbicide, dissolved in an oil carrier. This is equivalent to basal bark treatment and is very effective. The procedure is to just spray the center of the rosette, above the root collar, and the herbicide finds its way to the root and kills it.

Since we have 100's of plants, this is the only way to go. Our three-person crew worked systematically across this 4.5 acre unit, seeking out the mullein plants. Heisley's photo show the procedure, and the green plant just under Marci's sprayer is a mullein.

This photo also shows what this unit looks like at present. Earlier this year we thought we were going to plant this whole unit to prairie about now, but when we found how rough it was we decided to wait a year. We are now working hard to get rid of all the bad plants, with the idea that in the long run this will be preferable to trying to get rid of them later. Also, there are aspens here, which have been girdled but are not yet dead (see the background of this photo). This will give us another year for them to die and then we can get rid of them also.

The nice thing about spraying mullein now, when most everything else has died back, is that it is easy to spot.

In addition to mullein, the crew has also been spraying any remaining live honeysuckles and buckthorn, as well as anything else bad. Better to spray now, when there is nothing good, than to wait until later, when our prairie has started to grow.


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