It is a weed. And it stinks. Invading our desert, yards and trails, like an army marching forward into every square inch of open space and snuffing out everything else. It boasts blooms that look like small yellow lollipops. It is called stinknet, or globe chamomile. It proves that sometimes “pretty” can be bad.
Arizona, we have a problem.
Stinknet plants can grow up to 2 feet high and take over the natural flora, while evicting native plants and destroying much of the desert landscape. It is blanketing open areas in Maricopa and Pinal counties, and often tourists admire the “yellow poppies.” Well, Arizona does have yellow wildflowers, but stinknet are noxious evil flowering balls of treachery that will soon turn brown in the heat, then causing a major fire hazard. They are extremely flammable.
Every place seems to have its problems with invasive species. In Prescott, the salt cedar (tamarix) thrives along waterways, crowding out other plants. They are also a pretty lavender color but a noxious menace. Beware of lovely looking plants, because sometimes they fool us into thinking they are harmless “wildflowers.” I recall when I was a child bringing my mother a bouquet of fresh dandelions and poison ivy. It didn’t end well.
In Florida, one of the biggest invasive species is the mighty python. Yes, if we think we might have a few snake encounters in Arizona, relax, because we don’t have 17-foot pythons slithering around. Evidently there are tens of thousands of these vipers that have taken over the Everglades but are now moving farther north in the state. You can register with Florida Fish and Wildlife and sign up for the “Python Challenge,” which sounds like something out of a horror movie. Yes, snake hunters are a “real thing.”
Getting back to our own horror show, we have stinknet invading our state at an alarming rate. Part of the problem is that wildlife such as squirrels, rabbits, javelinas and other herbivores won’t eat the stuff, so it flourishes. Heck, even goats won’t touch it. It is nasty tasting to all living creatures.
My neighbor had a goat named Gilbert, and that goat would eat anything. His specialty was flowers, weeds and grass, but he could eat a horseshoe if he felt like it. I am thinking that Gilbert could be put to good use, as he would probably devour stinknet.
Still, there are not enough Gilberts to solve the problem. We need a platoon of volunteers to cut the stuff down. But once the little yellow flowering globes are disturbed, thousands of demon seeds are dispersed. There is a motto that says, “Once it is brown, cut it down.” OK, but maybe our state needs to put on a “Stinknet Challenge” much like Florida’s snake round-up.
Battling a rapidly spreading invasive species will take the efforts of state agencies, firefighters, gardeners and homeowners. And we are already on it. You and me. Pull them out, shovel them over, do it again. It may be trowel and error, but we have to get to the root of the problem.