Stinkwort Sagas, Part 3

I’ve gotten some feedback from my stinkwort (Dittrichia graveolens) stories, so here is the last one for the year. Why do I spend my time on this? It’s all over the place, so why bother?
I do it because doing nothing would make me feel worse than doing something. If I idly watched stinkwort from seedling to flower to blowing fruit, it would take away a little bit of my spirit. So I guess I’m doing it for myself.

Another reason is that stinkwort is bad for the environment. It’s poisonous for some livestock, useless for wild mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects. I still haven’t seen one bit of damage to these plants; nothing eats it, it just takes up space. And it competes with native plants, some of them rare or restricted.

The final reason: It’s bad for us. Here is a picture of a colleague who got a heaping big exposure to stinkwort last week. Okay, he knew better and should have been more careful. He let me share this picture because I wanted you to see what can happen. Ouch, right?

This plant produces a rash every bit as bad as poison oak, but most people don’t know this. Stinkwort loves to grow on the sides of hard-packed trails. I just think about chubby little baby toes waving from strollers and those polite people who step off the trail to make room for others to pass—they could brush up against stinkwort and not know they need to wash up. This could happen to them and they would never know what hit them.

 

Even if you decide you are going to make your corner of the world just a little bit better by removing stinkwort or some other weed, just know that it’s as much for your spirit as for everyone else. And you might not get a thank-you, but then again maybe you will.

This afternoon I was out with my friend Sandy, we were both in our safety vests, down on our knees on the sides of Highway 24, pulling little plants we somehow missed last month. With the roar of the traffic, I didn’t even hear the CHP motorcycle stop. The officer was halfway to me before I looked up with a start. I explained what we were doing, and he was curiously friendly. He ended by thanking us for our hard work, and we thanked him for his.

Barbara Leitner
President, East Bay Chapter CNPS

A wounded stinkwort warrior who didn’t wear long sleeves and gloves, or clean up equipment after contact. He recovered after a cortisone shot. Precautions similar to those for poison oak are needed.

A wounded stinkwort warrior who didn’t wear long sleeves and gloves, or clean up equipment after contact. He recovered after a cortisone shot. Precautions similar to those for poison oak are needed.