County works to eradicate ‘giant reed’ with help of state grant
by molly Marcello
The Times-Independent
Jun 30, 2016 | 6796 views | 0 0 comments | 695 695 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Grand County Weed Department was recently awarded a grant to help reduce “giant reed” or arundo donax, in the county. Giant reed was recently labeled a class 1B noxious weed by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. Photo courtesy of Tim Higgs
The Grand County Weed Department was recently awarded a grant to help reduce “giant reed” or arundo donax, in the county. Giant reed was recently labeled a class 1B noxious weed by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. Photo courtesy of Tim Higgs
With a $3,000 grant from the Utah Weed Supervisor Association, Grand County’s Weed Department will start addressing a noxious weed that has infested the local area – Arundo Donax or “giant reed.” Officials say the weed, which was recently labeled a class 1B noxious weed by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Foods, likely spread due to private property owners planting it in their yards, potentially mistaking it for bamboo.

“A lot of people were thinking it was bamboo, but it’s not,” said Grand County Weed Supervisor Tim Higgs. “The stems look similar but the leaf structure is very different.”

According to the Grand County Weed Department, giant reed is a robust, perennial grass with pale green leaves, that can grow between nine and thirty feet tall. It grows in many-stemmed, cane-like clumps and spreads from horizontal rootstocks below the soil.

Higgs estimates that there are over 100 giant reed infestations throughout the county, with the most concentrated in Moab and Spanish Valley.

“We have about 10 times as much as the rest of Utah has just in this valley,” Higgs told the Grand County Council June 21. “I think there are right around 10 or 11 for the entire state. We’ve got 100. I’ve seen two areas where people have recently planted it and they plant it from root stock.”

According to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Foods, class 1B weeds like giant reed are not native to Utah, are known to exist in limited populations and pose a “serious threat” to the state.

Higgs said the danger in the giant reed is its keen ability to spread, which could potentially create erosion problems throughout the county.

“It can spread, mainly from root fragments,” Higgs said. “So if someone’s planting it near the creek and a flood comes in, it makes the bank of the soil less stable and the flood would move root fragments down which could take hold.”

Several years ago, Higgs even found giant reed on his own property, and estimates it took approximately four years to completely eradicate.

“If you leave just one root fragment [of giant reed], it will spread,” he said.

This first grant from the Utah Weed Supervisor Association, Higgs said, will give the weed department a head start on its long-term goal of controlling the species. Higgs estimates eradication will be a “multi-year” process requiring more public education and more funding.

“We’re trying to do some education as well as help people remove it,” Higgs said. “ ... Since most of it is on private property, we’ll probably do mechanical removal.”

A portion of the grant money will be used to replace plants on property owners’ yards, he said

“Wildland Scapes and the [Bureau of Land Management] are coming up with ideas for replacement plants, and we’re trying to do natives,” Higgs said.

Kara Dohrenwend, owner of local nursery Wildland Scapes, said people make assumptions that if a plant “grows well,” then it’s well suited to the area.

“People often assume when they hear a plant is easy to grow that that means it is a good fit for their yards,” Dohrenwend said. “Often, if the easy to grow plant is not native to our area that is because it is well adapted but without predators — which means it can grow unchecked. And often it can even become a pest in your own yard.”

Dohrenwend said community members can always get more information about good plants for the local area from the staff at her nursery and other landscape professionals.

“As far as plants that can become over-exuberant and may end up escaping and creating issues outside of individual landscapes ... ask landscape professionals with some history in the area, or local nursery staff,” Dohrenwend said. “Not only do they usually know what can become invasive — or even just a real pain to maintain in your yard once it gets established — but they will know alternatives that can fill similar landscaping needs.”

Higgs encourages the public to call the Grand County Weed Department at 435-259-1369 for more information about giant reed.

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