I didn’t want to talk about this. I know it’s personal, but we’ve got to do something. It’s your goatheads.
Goatheads, aka puncturevine, aka tribulus terrestris. It is officially and legally a noxious weed, noxious as in “harmful or extremely unpleasant.” The laws of the state and regulations of the county make this weed an outlaw, even if it is plentiful. This time of year I see it on my daily foot patrol. I see it when I drive. I see it when I ride. I see it in gravel parking lots and driveways and alleys. I see it in tidy, well-kept yards and not-so-tidy yards. Forget the pun, but it’s a growing problem.
Goatheads, or puncturevine, or whatever you call it, is a nasty piece of business. It looks innocent enough. It grows low, with little green oval leaves and yellow flowers on stems up to three feet long. Soon it produces fruit, the seedy stuff, which has horrible spiky spines that harden into near lethal weapons that spread quarter-inch boobytraps across the land. That’s just a slight exaggeration. You will feel them if you happen to step on one with a bare foot. Your poor dog will let you when a goathead sticks in his paw. There was a time when an unfortunately positioned goathead could deflate the tire on your car, which may be why they call it puncturevine, and may be the reason they invented steel-belted radials. They are still murder on bicycle tires. Every rider knows the symptoms — the thap, thap, thap as the seed penetrates the turning rubber. Then you stop and carefully pull out the prickly seed, often followed by the dreaded, faint pssssst of deflation.
Puncturevine is designated as a Class B noxious weed under state rules, and listed as a priority problem by the Chelan County Noxious Weed program. That means if you have it, under state law you are obligated to control it before it goes to seed. The county weed program has friendly people who will let you know if they find a particularly bad infestation. They can offer good advice on how to control the weed. Small patches can been pulled by hand, but I can tell you from personal experience the stuff is likely to come back the next year, and the year after. Seeds are incredibly persistent things. Victory over puncturevine requires persistence and dedication.
I know, weeds can happen to good people. Some of the best people I know have had this problem, myself included. It’s no cause for shame, but you can’t just let it go. There is help.
Just recently I happened to walk by the home of the publisher of a prominent local newspaper, only to spy a small-but-spreading puncturevine patch growing from a crack in his sidewalk. I politely informed him of this trouble, and am pleased to say immediate action was taken. Goatheads gone.
Wednesday, I just happened to walk by the place of business of a well-known and respected mayor of the city in which I reside, and saw a small puncturevine growing from the gravel in his otherwise impeccably maintained landscape. The mayor was passing and we struck up a conversation, and I said hey, did you know you’ve got some goatheads up there? No, I didn’t, he said. Thank you. They will be removed immediately, he said.
Together, we can overcome goatheads. Well, maybe not. But they are a big problem that can become less of a problem if we are persistent on our resistance. The dogs and bicycle riders will be grateful.
Tracy Warner’s column appears Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 665-1163.