|Who doesn’t love hounds and wouldn’t mind a friendly to get a friendly lick from one? Well, this houndstongue is one to avoid.|
|Photo by Bernd Haynold|
|Why are some of the prettiest flowers uninvited guests? Houndstongue is a noxious weed from Asia and Europe that is believed to have come to the U.S. in a flower seed mixture. It can be found along roadsides, disturbed areas, under a forest canopy or meadow. It grows well in sandy soil but can also be found in grassland. Despite its looks, it is definitely not one to have in your pasture. It is toxic to humans and livestock. The hooked barbs on seeds can injure animals and devalue wool fleece.
Besides the photo shown, it can be recognized by its similarity to bluebell or mullein (the flowers are different–dull red purple colored). The entire plant is fuzzy, which somehow led to the name houndstongue (it is also called dog’s tongue or gypsy flower, or “rats and mice” due to its smell). It can reach 4 feet in height.
The plant was used in pre-industrial age Europe to treat madness or be used as a diuretic, skin lotion, or an “anti aphrodisiac.” Considering that is can transform healthy cells into cancerous and can cause liver damage, the cure was definitely worse! Livestock will generally avoid the plant unless the pasture they are in lacks good forage.
As with most invasive and noxious weeds, prevention is key. A healthy pasture is similar to a strong immune system in humans. Once you see houndstongue, pull out the plants before the flowers produce seeds, being sure to get most of the taproot. If seeds are present and attach to you or your pets, remove them and either dispose of them in the garbage or (even better) a hot fire. Infestations can be treated with 2,4-D amine or Metsulfuron. Please contact the Harney County Weed Management Agency for further information, (541) 573-8385.
Sign up for the latest updates on HSWCD projects, news & events!