Stinkwort (Dittrichia graveolens) pulling season is in full swing, and you are welcome to join in! The past years of clearing it from Highway 24 between the Caldecott Tunnel and Walnut Creek are paying off—some interchanges have yielded just a handful of plants this year. Pulling plants before they flower, reducing the seed bank, and attacking nearby sources: these are all necessary steps. One of the most satisfying incidents was revisiting a one-acre weedy corporation yard I’ve been working on for about six years. In the early days I took three truckloads of stinkwort to the dump one year, and I probably spent 10-15 hours pulling, stacking and bagging. This year my weeding buddy, Sandy Greenwald, and I spent a mere 40 minutes to pull just a couple of stacks. Other plants are growing in, like wildrye, clover, and coyote brush. Maybe next year stinkwort will be just a memory!

Stinkwort patrolling never goes down to zero effort, even if you find just a handful of plants where there had been thousands previously. Plants show up on tires, are blown by the wind, or maybe you just missed one plant last year. But it becomes more of an Easter egg hunt than drudgery, exploring and revisiting out-of-the-way places known mainly to deer and fence lizards. In fact, one of the pleasures of this pursuit is seeing the world from the point of view of our four-legged neighbors—the holes in the fences, the roar of the traffic, the narrow trails leading up and away. It’s going for a walk with a purpose.

And people are appreciative. Agency managers range from merely cooperative to enthusiastically grateful. I’ve had favorable interactions with Caltrans, EBMUD, Regional Parks, Contra Costa Public Works, Orinda, Moraga, and Lafayette. Members of the public sometimes give a little toot showing solidarity and support as they fly past at freeway speed. Sometimes we find gardeners out, and we stop and tell them about stinkwort, usually with a smelly example in hand. Sandy has prepared a flyer, and we hand those out. When we ask for permission to weed on private land, we are almost always given permission, and afterwards we sometimes notice the owners have taken stinkwort removal on themselves.

None of this is rocket science, but after eight years, I can assure you it makes a difference. If you would like to get started in your neighborhood, I can help you with technique, scheduling, distinguishing stinkwort from several look-alikes (several Erigeron are especially tricky), how to contact land managers in your neighborhood, and talking points if you reach out to private land owners. You are always welcome to come out with us for a test drive!

Stinkwort (Districhia graveolens) before.
Stinkwort (Districhia graveolens) before.


Stinkwort after Once the stinkwort is gone, ground opens up for native or at least less invasive non-native plants. Photos by Barbara Leitner.
Stinkwort after.  Once the stinkwort is gone, ground opens up for native or at least less invasive non-native plants. Photos by Barbara Leitner.