SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Discovering Invasive Plants of Ketchikan
By Marie L. Monyak


April 24, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - Just in time for the spring planting season, the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center Friday Night Insight Program hosted the presentation; Invasive Plants in Ketchikan ~ Nip them in the Bud! The guest speaker was Pam Fletcher, U.S. Forest Service Ecologist for the Tongass National Forest.

With the assistance of a power point slide show, Fletcher began by saying, "We're going to be talking about the invasive plants in Ketchikan. I chose to take the 5 most common [plants] seen around town."

Fletcher explained to the audience "Invasive plants have become such a problem that in 1999, President Clinton issued an executive order because the government realized that we were having a problem because these plants are overrunning our country so we need to control it."

jpg invasive plants of Ketchikan

Pam Fletcher speaking to audience members and answering their questions.
Photo by Marie L. Monyak

Realizing the need to define just what an invasive plant is, Fletcher described them as, "Any plant that moves into a new area by accident or on purpose, not from down the block or from another state but from another country, not North America."

Fletcher added, "Also the plants are capable of moving into native plant communities and disrupting the ecological processes or they may cause harm to human health and incurs economic costs."

Fletcher showed several slides of just such activity where several invasive plants had overrun a widespread area. One slide that clearly depicted the problem was of Orange Hawkweed that had taken over an entire meadow on Kodiak Island.

Explaining the necessity of knowing how the weeds or invasive plant reproduce is the key to eradicating them. Fletcher said, "How they spread is by seed, roots and stems and they are very, very good at spreading. Invasive plants are spread by clothing, shoes, cars, airplanes, hay and nurseries."

Looking a bit embarrassed, Fletcher admitted that even the U.S. Forest had inadvertently introduced an invasive plant in Southeast Alaska when they planted canary grass for the purpose of soil stabilization but it backfired when the grass took over.

Asking the audience why they should care about these plants, Fletcher answered her own question by saying, "They cause a great deal of harm to our resources and take over native plant communities and it costs a great deal to control them." She further explained, "They have a real ecological impact displacing native plants including rare and endangered species."

Fletcher displayed large dried samples of the 5 most common invasive plants in Ketchikan and along with the slides; the audience was able to recognize the most of the plants from their own yards or areas they frequent.

According to Fletcher the most common invasive plants in Ketchikan are Japanese Knotweed (4 different species), Orange Hawkweed, Bull Thistle, Oxeye Daisy and Tansy Ragwort.

Japanese Knotweed (4 different species)
Perennial, reproduces by roots. Only herbicides will eradicate.

Photographer: Britt Slattery, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Orange Hawkweed
Perennial, reproduces by roots, runners and seeds
Remove by digging up entire plant.

Photographer: UAF Cooperative Extension Archives, University of Alaska - Fairbanks

Bull Thistle
Biennial, Lives only 2 years
Remove by pulling out entire plant. Very thorny, wear gloves!

Photographer: UAF Cooperative Extension Archives, University of Alaska - Fairbanks

 Oxeye Daisy
Perennial, reproduces by roots and seed. Remove by digging up entire plant.

Photographer: Mary Ellen (Mel) Harte

Tansy Ragwort
Perennial, reproduces by seed. Remove by digging up entire plant. Toxic plant, wear gloves!

Photographer: Faith Duncan, USDA Forest Service

Several slides that Fletcher presented showed areas around the state that had been overrun by the various plants she had mentioned. One of the biggest problems Fletcher explained is when the plants grow along a waterway where the leaf litter ends up in the creek or stream and various insects that are not native to the waterway begin to live off the rotting vegetation. In the natural order of things, our native fish begin to eat the insects which can have an adverse effect, disrupting the natural cycle.

Another problem Fletcher pointed out was obvious in her next slide, a vast area near a waterway had been invaded and as she pointed out, it's difficult to eradicate because herbicides cannot be used near the water. The next photo that had been taken in Juneau showed how prolific Japanese Knotweed is, a grown man in the center of the photo appeared to be practically swallowed alive by the plants!

Fletcher ended her short presentation to allow time for questions from the audience. The most important question she answered was how to dispose of the plants once they were dug up. She recommended enclosing the plants in plastic bags and taking them to the landfill to be placed in the incinerator to prevent the plants from spreading.

When asked what type of herbicide she would recommend Fletcher explained that there are too many variables such as the type of soil, terrain, location and plant species to suggest any one chemical although she did suggest contacting the University of Alaska website for more information on eradication methods and herbicides.

As Fletcher ended her presentation she invited the audience to join her in the front of the room to inspect the samples she had provided and to select from the numerous free Forest Service pamphlets and brochures containing valuable information on invasive plants.

The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center will have their last Friday Night Insight Program of this season on April 28th. The next Friday Night Insight Program season will begin in the fall.

The presentation on April 28, held at 7:00 P.M., will be "The Nature of Wilderness." Susan Bliss Jenkins, lead Wilderness Kayak Ranger for the Ketchikan Misty Fiords Ranger District will highlight the differences and similarities of three unique wilderness areas in the United States; Juniper Prairie Wilderness in Florida, Gospel Hump Wilderness in Idaho, and Misty Fiords National Monument in Alaska.


On the Web:

A cooperative project between the USFS State and Private Forestry, the National Park Service, Alaska Natural Heritage Program, University of Alaska Anchorage and the USGS Alaska Science Center


Marie L. Monyak is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
A freelance writer is an uncommitted independent writer
from whom a publisher, such as SitNews, can order articles for a fee.
For information about freelance writing services and costs contact Marie at mlmx1[at]

Send your story ideas to editor@sitnews us

Publish A Letter on SitNews
        Read Letters/Opinions

Contact the Editor

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska