Law requires ragweed to be pulled from property

A pretty yellow flower capable of killing a horse or cow if ingested is taking over pastures in and outside of Corbett, area residents say.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Tansy ragwort, or ragweed, has dark green leaves and numerous seed heads with yellow flowers.The noxious weed is tansy ragwort (Senecio jacobaea), also known as stinking willie, stinking ninny, stinking davies, tansy butterweed or tansy ragweed.

Along the Historic Columbia River Highway and across the street from Big Bear Country Market and Deli in Springdale, a vacant pasture is covered with yellow patches of tansy growing shoulder-high.

Phil DuFresne, Big Bear’s owner and a Springdale resident of 35 years, said this is not only a really bad year for tansy, it’s the worst.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Phil DuFresne, owner of Big Bears Country Market and Deli in Springdale, said tansy has taken over.“It’s taken over,” he said.

Like many locals who recognize the ragweed, DuFresne extracts the plant from his own property every summer, but he said at least two dozen plants popped up on his 5 acres anyway.

If neglected, the flowers go to seed and tansy can spread like wildfire, overtaking pastures, clear cuts and roadsides.

“That will just blossom and blossom and blossom,” said DuFresne, pointing to the overgrown field, believed to be owned by Californians who don’t live locally.

“When the east wind blows, they ‘goes.’ ”

DuFresne said people used to control the ragweed, and they could be fined if they didn’t deal with it. Now, he wonders what happened to those regulations.

Multnomah County code enforcement officer Dave Thomson said allowing tansy to grow uncontrolled on any pasture in unincorporated areas is still considered illegal, but he said the county receives only a trickle of complaints about it.

A person reported to be neglecting tansy on his or her property has 30 days to get rid of it, otherwise facing a fine up to $720, Thomson said.

But so far, he said only one person has complained on the east side of the Sandy River and two on the west side. If people told the county about it, the county would address it, Thomson said.

Among other invasive species such as English ivy, purple loosetrife and Scotch broom, tansy outbreaks are a problem every year, Thomson said. The ragweed blooms in late summer to fall.

Tansy gets a bad reputation because it is potentially toxic to livestock, he said. If ingested by a horse or cow, the ragweed accumulates in the liver, causing irreversible damage that can kill the animal.

Sheep appear to be unaffected by tansy’s toxicity, according to the Oregon Department of OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Tansy grows wild in a vacant pasture near Southeast Lucas Road in Springdale.

Corbett resident Sue Fry already has cleared her 11-acre property of tansy to guard her horses from grazing on the weed. Most animals won’t eat it, she said. But if it’s the only thing in the pasture, or they’re bored enough, they will, Thomson said.

Fry said many people don’t know tansy is toxic.

“People think it’s a pretty yellow flower,” she said.

People should be pulling tansy on their own property, she said.

The weed is very simple to pull. You take a shovel and dig up its shallow roots, and “It just pops right out,” Fry said.

Flower heads must be chopped off and discarded in a garbage bag, so when the flower seeds, the weed doesn’t spread.

“If you just throw (the whole plant) in a burn pile, the flowers will seed out and the wind will take it,” Fry said. She also does not recommend burning any of the plant as it is not burn season.

Thomson, a former roadside herbicide manager for the county, said spraying the weed with chemicals also will kill it.

There also are biological controls for tansy.

In the past, certain insects such as the cinnabar moth would eat the weed.

This summer, Fry said she’s seen pastures loaded with tansy, even in Gresham.

“It’s just frustrating,” she said.”We don’t want this to spread.”

In Eugene, where Fry moved from years ago, she said, neighbors would be at your door with pitchforks ready to turn you in if they saw tansy growing wild in your yard.

If you have a tansy complaint, call Multnomah County Code Enforcement at 503-988-3464.

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