Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

Baker City rarely looks as lush and green as it does now, and this has Arnie Grammon seeing red.

It’s not that Grammon has a grudge against plants in general.

Weeds, however, bother him.

It is in fact his job to be bothered by weeds.

Grammon manages Baker County’s Weed Department, and his territory includes Baker City.

And although Grammon, who is himself a gardener, is excited about the prospects for a bumper crop of produce, he’s also worried because a couple of the weeds on the county’s most-wanted list — whitetop and Scotch thistle — are benefiting from the ample moisture at least as much as carrots, beans and corn are.

“We just have perfect growing conditions, with all the moisture we’ve had,” Grammon said Wednesday afternoon.

The deep snow this winter helped protect whitetop, which is a perennial, from the frigid temperatures.

This situation prompted Grammon to issue to Baker City property owners what amounts to a call to arms.

He’s pleading with people who have either or both of these weeds on their property to do something — anything — to reduce the amount of seed the weeds will produce.

Property owners can choose from an arsenal of effective weapons, including herbicide, lawnmowers, weed-whackers and even a sharp shovel.

The key, Grammon said — not to mention the subject of a state law — is limiting the seed production.

Because years like this one, when whitetop and Scotch thistle are thriving, can have repercussions far into the future.

Generations, even.

Scotch thistle seeds, for instance, can ride the wind for a mile or more — “they’re a lot like dandelion seeds,” Grammon said — and they can lie dormant in the soil for half a century before germinating.

“If you care about your neighbors, you should step up and do something,” Grammon said.

He has the legal authority to require property owners to treat both whitetop and Scotch thistle to limit their seed production.

Grammon said he typically mails about 20 letters each year to Baker City property owners asking them to control weeds.

About 95 percent of people comply with his request, he said.

In the rare cases where that doesn’t happen, Grammon said he can have the weeds treated and then send a bill to the property owner.

But he hopes to avoid this by encouraging residents to take meaningful steps immediately.

Whitetop

This noxious weed, also known as hoary cress, can be difficult to control.

But Grammon said most of the whitetop patches he’s seen in Baker City have yet to produce viable seeds, so they’re still vulnerable to herbicide.

For property owners who prefer not to use chemicals, Grammon recommends they cut whitetop either with a weed-whacker or a lawnmower.

That’s not a permanent solution, to be sure, but it can curb this year’s seed production, which is what Oregon law requires.

“If we don’t, then we’ll be paying for it in the future,” Grammon said.

Scotch thistle

This weed might seem to be a greater threat than whitetop, with individual plants growing taller than an NBA center, but such is not the case, Grammon said.

In fact, Scotch thistle is much less hardy than many noxious weeds.

The reason, Grammon said, is that if you use a sharp shovel to slash through its stalk at ground level, the root will die.

Other thistles, including the less-common Canada thistle, are much more obstinate and will produce a new plant even from a bit of root.

But Scotch thistle is an unusually satisfying weed to work on, Grammon said, since a couple hours of toil with a shovel can yield long-lasting results.

An herbicide called Milestone is also effective against Scotch thistle.

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