I reach my right hand over to the areas of my back where it aches… just behind both shoulders. Who would have thought that two gallons of herbicide weighed so much? Actually, it wasn’t so much the weight of the backpack sprayer, but more so the plastic pressed up against my back that caused this discomfort.



Luckily for us, we haven’t experienced much discomfort this week due to the weather.  Because of this I was finally able to dedicate some time to combating the infamously invasive Canada thistle. Sarah Williams, the Invasive Management Intern at the refuge, took me under her wing and trained me to fight Canada thistle via back pack sprayer.  We abandoned our office spaces and stepped outside to prepare the back pack. We created a 2 gallon solution of herbicide, water, and blue dye. When we finished preparing, I strapped the plastic container onto my back. With a long sleeved shirt, rubber gloves, glasses, field pants, and a cap I set off to an area of the refuge where the thistle persisted. I held the spray nozzle in my right hand and I pumped the pack with my left hand.

Thistle with a tinge of blue

A tinge of blue

Dried up thistle

Remnants of sprayed plants

I stood amongst many dead shriveled thistle. These must have been the ones Sarah sprayed a while back, but surely enough there were young plants sprouting underneath the dead ones and large blooming plants that must have been missed before. I trekked through the dried up vegetation searching for the next plant to spray. It was easy to keep track of the thistle I had already sprayed because the solution dyed them blue.

I finished my pack in about 40 minutes. It went by much faster than I expected, but it was because there was just so much to spray. Invasive plant species like these are no joke. They need to constantly be managed for. The reason for spraying is to prevent the plant from blooming and spreading their seeds. The plants that were blooming already were taken care of in a different fashion. No chemicals were usef on them, but manual labor. A Saturday work party of 15 people including myself took on the blooms with clippers and garbage bags. We all clipped enough thistle to fill our very own very large bags.  Our hope is to lessen the spread of the thistle and to hopefully someday eradicate it from the refuge.

Thistle with viable seeds that are ready to spread.

Thistle with viable seeds that are ready to spread.

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