Invasive, Noxious, and Diseased Plants
Handle the following with care … then bring them to us for composting!
The blossoms of wild parsnip or giant hogweed may add beauty to the roadsides, but sap from the plant can prove quite painful if you get it on your skin. Ultraviolet light (present even on cloudy days) reacts with the sap and can cause reddening, rashes, discoloration, severe blisters, and burning.
And a disease like late blight won’t just kill your potatoes or tomato plants – it can spread quickly to neighboring gardens or farms, wiping out entire harvests. It’s important to identify the disease quickly and dispose of the disease plants properly to avoid spreading the infection.
Here’s a brief guide on how to identify noxious plants and dangerous plant diseases commonly found in Chittenden County – and what to do with them.
How to identify common local plants & problems
Description: Wild parsnip looks like a yellow version of Queen Anne’s lace. Yellow, in flat-topped umbrella-like clusters at the top of the plant.
Season: Wild parsnip rosettes are among the first plants to become green in spring, and its flowers turn a prominent yellow in midsummer. After flowering and going to seed, plants die and turn brown in fall, but first year rosettes remain green until frost.
Habitat: Roadsides, abandoned fields, unmowed pastures, edges of woods, prairie restorations.
Description: Giant hogweed looks like Queen Anne’s lace—on steroids. It is a biennial or perennial herb in the carrot family which can grow to 14 feet or more. Its hollow, ridged stems grow 2-4 inches in diameter and have dark reddish-purple blotches. Its large compound leaves can grow up to 5 feet wide. Its white flower heads can grow up to 2 1/2 feet in diameter.
Season: Late June to mid-July
Habitat: The species is common along railroads, roadsides, rights-of-ways, vacant lots, streams, rivers, uncultivated or waste lands and agricultural areas.
Description: It first appears on the lower, older leaves as small brown spots with concentric rings that form a “bull’s eye” pattern. As the disease matures, it spreads outward on the leaf surface causing it to turn yellow, wither and die. Eventually the stem, fruit and upper portion of the plant will become infected. Crops can be severely damaged.
Season: Symptoms of early blight usually appear near the end of the season, though symptoms may appear earlier.
Affects: Tomato & potato plants.
Description: Late blight kills plants outright, and it is highly contagious. Its occurrence in your garden can affect other gardens and farms due to the wind-dispersed spores. The fungus that causes late blight is aptly named: phytophthora in Latin means “plant destroyer.” Infected plant tissue dies. Outbreaks spread quickly under favorable conditions because the pathogen can produce huge numbers of wind-dispersed spores. Once a plant is infected, it must be destroyed.
Season: The disease spreads rapidly in cool wet weather, whereas dry weather tends to hold back the disease. The USA Blight website tracks the occurence of late blight in real time. Check the site regularly during the growing season.
Affects: Mainly attacks potatoes and tomatoes, although it can sometimes be found on other crops, weeds and ornamentals in the same botanical family, such as petunia, nightshades, and tomatillos.
What to do with them
Bag the plants (exercise extra caution with noxious plants, the sap from which can cause severe burns or blindness), ideally in a paper grocery bag or a compostable leaf bag (available at many hardware stores, garden centers, and grocery stores), and drop them off at one of the facilities listed below. If you use plastic bags, you MUST empty the parsnips out of the bag at all drop-off locations, and dispose of the bag in the trash.
Drop them off at:
- Best: Green Mountain Compost on Redmond Road in Williston; let them know when you bring any noxious or blighted plant so they can bury it immediately and prevent the spores or blight from spreading.
- CSWD Drop-Off Centers
- McNeil Wood & Yard Waste Depot on Intervale Road in Burlington
Many people know what to do to remove the noxious wild parsnip and giant hogweed plants (wear gloves and protective clothing, dig them out by the roots, remove flowers to prevent seed production, etc.), but they may not be so sure about how to properly dispose of the plants, or plants affected by Early Blight or Late Blight.
Along with general yard and garden debris, weeds (even wild parsnip and giant hogweed) are banned from landfill disposal in Chittenden County. There are nine facilities in the county where you can bring them to be safely composted. All material brought to these facilities ends up at Green Mountain Compost in Williston, where, unlike backyard compost systems, composting temperatures are high enough to degrade the noxious compounds in the plants as well as destroy the seeds to prevent future germination.