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Nature's Velcro

Montana is a great place to enjoy a wide variety of recreational activities including nature walks, bird watching, hiking, fishing and hunting as well as many others. However it is easy to overlook a common noxious weed scattered throughout the landscape. Houndstounge is a pesky plant that has widespread negative impacts to the landscape. More than likely anyone that recreates has encountered this plant and cusses its ability to stick to almost anything including your beloved pets and livestock. The plant is a tap rooted biennial which means it lives two years usually flowering and setting seed the second year. During the first year of growth the plant forms a rosette and a deep taproot. The second year a flowering stem is formed which produce the flowers that bloom and encourage the plant to set seed. After the setting seed the plant has completed its lifecycle and dies. The nutlets (dry seeds) remain attached to the dead plant until something removes them and transports them to a different area to begin the lifecycle all over. Humans, pets, livestock and wildlife all have the ability to unknowingly transport the inconspicuous seeds. You more than likely have experienced the inconvenience of having to pick the seeds from clothing, shoe laces and pets hair after returning to the trailhead or parking lot after a hike or fishing trip. This is where you as a recreationalist can help. Human nature is to pick the seeds off and throw them on the ground before leaving the site or entering your vehicle. This will only create a new infestation. If possible place the seeds in a bag and discard in the garbage.

Interesting tidbits

  • Velcro was invented after studying the seed of houndstounge under a microscope

  • The name “houndstounge” was given because the leaves of a rosette plant are broad and oblong resembling the shape of a dog’s tongue

Houndstounge Facts

  • A single plant can produce up to 2,000 viable seeds

  • Seeds remain viable on plants for 2-3 years

  • Toxic to grazing animals causing liver failure in horses and cattle

  • Deep rooted perennial- Roots can reach up to 3 feet

  • Can reach heights of 4 feet with Velcro like seeds

Helpful Tips

  • Utilize only certified noxious weed free forage, topsoil and gravel

  • Cut, bag and remove all plants containing viable seeds

Takeaway message

  • Be aware of your environment, avoid areas infested with Houndstounge and educate friends and family

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