Medusahead

The invasive medusahead weed.

United States Department of Agriculture

PABLO – The latest “Wanted” poster in western Montana isn’t for a person, but rather, a plant.

Authorities from three counties and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are asking people to be on the lookout for medusahead.

The invasive weed has been detected in the north Valley Creek area of the Flathead Indian Reservation. It is capable of drastically reducing the livestock carrying capacity of rangeland.

“The weed is virtually inedible, offers little value for livestock and wildlife due to its high silica content, and it prevents other plants from germinating,” according to a news release from the tribes. “Medusahead may replace cheatgrass. Healthy native plant communities are less susceptible, but not resistant to medusahead colonization.”

Medusahead derives its name from the mythical female monster that had snakes instead of hair – its bristles are said to resemble her head.

The Eurasian grass was found in southwestern Oregon in the late 1800s, and has been discovered in 17 Western states in the past decade according to CSKT.

It “spreads rapidly through native grasses where perennial vegetation has been destroyed or depleted by newly graded roads, livestock loafing areas, grazing, invasive species, or where fires cleared an area,” according to the news release.

Medusahead takes advantage of deep soil moisture, yet produces seed two to three weeks after cheatgrass. It appears “mat-forming” because of its ability to cover an area to the detriment of other plants, and its seeds remain attached to the stem at the end of its growing season, unlike many other troublesome weeds.

It has rapid fall germination, and root growth throughout the winter. It also robs water from more palatable pasture and range grass and forage, and creates abundant litter that does not decompose easily.

Officials are especially concerned about its spread in the Valley Creek, Jocko, Ravalli and Dixon areas, and ask people to be on the lookout for it along dirt roads, utility corridors and other disturbed sites.

If you think you’ve found medusahead, you’re asked to contact one of the following:

• The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Lands Department at 676-2700, Ext. 1240.

• Lake County Weed Control at 883-7330.

• Sanders County Weed Department at 826-3487.

• Missoula County Weed Control at 258-4200.

Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at 1-800-366-7186 or by email at vdevlin@missoulian.com.

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