Naughty and Nice for 2021

We’ve been making a list,
And checking it twice,
Now its time to find out
Who has been naughty and nice!

It is a WeedWise tradition for each of our staff to select our annual “Naughty and Nice” plants for the year. Check out the latest from our staff in this fun holiday tradition!

Sam’s Naughty and Nice 2021

Sam’s Naughty and Nice List

Naughty:  Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

Common hawthorn has risen to the top of my naughty list this year in part because it is spreading into many of the open areas of the county, dominated by grassland species like Pacific madrone and Oregon white oak.  In these areas, common hawthorn can form dense thickets of thorny branches that make it difficult and painful to move through.

The berries of hawthorn are dispersed by birds and can spread easily and a significant distance from parent plants making them difficult to manage. These plants often establish a foothold along fence lines where they flourish and continue to expand into nearby natural areas.

The spread of this species also feels slow compared to some other invasive plants.  This moderately-paced rate of spread allows common hawthorn to allow it to avoid many early detection and rapid response lists, allowing it to grow virtually unchecked on the landscape.  Ultimately, it reaches the point where it lives up to its name and becomes “common” on the landscape, but at the cost of rarity for many other native plants and animals.

Nice:  Pacific Madrone (Arbutus menziesii)

Pacific madrone has risen to the top of my nice list this year for a number of reasons.  First, madrone is perhaps one of the most amazingly beautiful native trees in our region.  The leathery leaves, the peeling bark and the contorted growth is striking and leaves a strong impression on the landscape.  The bright orange-red berries of Pacific madrone in fall and winter are an important late-season food source for native birds

The areas where Pacific madrone are often found often have unique geology, typically with rocky outcroppings surrounded by remnant prairie-oak savannah.  This habitat type is becoming increasingly rare in our region.  Pacific madrone often serves as a monument to the historic prairie habitats that have now given way to fir encroachment due to more than a century of fire suppression.

Most of all, pacific madrone is on my list because it is an incredibly tough and complex plant.  It is often found growing in some of the rockiest and most inhospitable locations, which few other plants can tolerate.  Yet, if you have ever tried to grow madrone, it is also notoriously finicky to grow.  These seemingly contradictory characteristics, tell the story that everything has a unique place or circumstance where they flourish.  An important lesson for all of us to remember!

Lindsey’s Naughty and Nice List

Naughty:  Himalayan blackberry (Rubus bifrons)

Himalayan blackberry (Rubus bifrons) is on my “naughty” list because it is not only highly invasive, but it is very flammable and can become a ladder fuel, which means the shrubs can help fires move from the ground into the tree canopy. Blackberry can also thrive after a wildfire, regrowing quickly and outcompeting native plants. Also, those prickles are painful!

Nice:  Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium)

Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) is on my “nice” list because it’s a native wildflower that is often one of the first species to appear after a large disturbance, such as a wildfire. It spreads quickly, which helps prevent erosion and improves the soil, but it doesn’t outcompete native trees and shrubs. Many pollinators also really love fireweed, and since it blooms late in the season, it is an important food source for them.


Courtney’s Naughty and Nice List

Naughty:  Bohemian knotweed (Fallopia bohemica)

I chose Bohemian knotweed (Fallopia bohemica) as my “naughty” plant for its ability to displace our riparian habitats. It can grow in full sun or shade and forms dense stands that outcompete native plants, alter waterways, and increase erosion. It spreads rapidly by rhizomes and will establish new infestations downstream from root and stem fragments. Bohemian knotweed is a hybrid of giant knotweed and Japanese knotweed, but it is the predominant knotweed species that we treat in Clackamas County.

Nice: False Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum)

False Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) is my “nice” candidate since it is a widespread native plant throughout North America. Like knotweed, it has showy lace-like flowers, spreads by rhizomes, and resides in our native understory and riparian habitats. The young shoots can be simmered in water and eaten, resembling an asparagus flavor, and the roots can be boiled to make tea for medical purposes. Since we have some native look-a-likes that are toxic, false Solomon’s seal should not be consumed unless identification is positive.

Justin’s Naughty and Nice List

Naughty:  Oblong Spurge (Euphorbia oblongata)

Oblong spurge is a naughty noxious herbaceous perineal.  This attractive ornamental brings vibrant greens and yellows to any planting bed.  Oblong spurge has thick milky sap like Milkweed but this sap is phytotoxic and can burn the skin if it is handled without gloves.  Oblong spurge is designated as an “A” list noxious weed by the Oregon State Weed Board.  Eradication is required by state law.

Nice:  Showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa)

Showy milkweed is a nice native herbaceous perineal.  This beautiful plant was widely utilized throughout pre-Columbian North America for fiber, food, and medicine. Milkweed is the only plant genus that can sustain Monarch butterfly caterpillars.  The decline in milkweed population throughout North America is most likely a contributing factor to the decline in the migrating Monarch butterfly.

Happy Holidays!

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