UM Students Lead Battle Against Recent Weed Invader on Mount Sentinel

April 30, 2014

MISSOULA – Wildland Restoration students at the University of Montana will take the lead this week to control the spread of houndstongue, an invasive weed on Mount Sentinel’s lower slopes. On Saturday, May 3, students and community volunteers will hold a work day to eradicate the invader before it establishes on other areas of the mountain.

The event is organized as part of a capstone course by UM students studying ecological restoration within the University’s College of Forestry and Conservation. In addition to reducing weeds on the site, students will inform participants about ecology, ecological restoration and the adverse impacts of invasive plants. Volunteers also will pick up trash and old barbed wire.

UM’s restoration students are working to get rid of houndstongue while its population is still small. Though invasive weeds have been on Mount Sentinel for more than 100 years, houndstongue is a more recent invader.  

“Prevention is a key technique when managing invasive plants,” UM wildland restoration student Caleb Dysthe said. “If you can catch them early in an invasion, they are much easier to get rid of.”

Houndstongue is a native of Eurasia that accidentally was imported to Montana as a seed contaminant. Houndstongue can out-compete native prairie flowers, which are preferred by grazing wildlife such as deer. This weed also produces sticky seeds that allow it to travel far to establish new plants.  

“The Missoula community may be the most important participants in restoring Mount Sentinel’s Palouse prairie to its native state,” said Kevin Carns, vice president of UM’s Student Association of the Society for Ecological Restoration, an international organization of scientists and restoration practitioners. “It takes dedicated members coming out year after year to continue the restoration success on our mountain.”

The event will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. Please RSVP to kevin.carns@umontana.edu to volunteer. Volunteers are asked to bring water and wear a long sleeve shirt. Snacks will be provided.

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Contact: Kevin Carns, UM student, 509-899-3425, kevin.carns@umontana.edu; Cara Nelson, UM associate professor of restoration ecology, 406-243-6066, cara.nelson@umontana.