The Upper Peninsula is known for its beautiful scenery, but what if something as small as a plant could change that?
"From an ecological standpoint, from a human health standpoint and even from a safety standpoint, it is a pretty nasty weedâ?? said Teri Grout, the Executive Director for the Alger Conservation District. â??It also has a chemical that inhibits the growth of plants around it, so it's pretty much an unfair competitor."
That unfair competitor is knapweed. The Alger Conservation District has been pulling knapweed from the Au Train beach for the past three years. This year they had help from Central U.P. Cooperative Weed Management and an intern crew from Northern Michigan University.
"It can be really bad because it can exhibit allelopathy, which can stop other plants from growingâ?? said Kayla Knoll, the internship program supervisor. â??It has chemicals that deter other growth so it can become a monoculture in certain spots."
Knapweed can be identified by small purple flowers, but once they bloom the seeds can very easily spread. The group at Au Train beach is doing their part to make sure knapweed does not do even more damage. "We have seen places where it is the only plant in a large fieldâ?? said Grout. â??Some places like on Coast Guard Point on Grand Marais we have been working on for some years, but we have a lot longer of a way to go. You can see where it has started to replace some of the beach grass and the native plants that are out here. We are trying to take care of this place before it gets anywhere near that bad."
In just a few hours the crew collected over ten bags full of knapweed, and had plenty more to go.
"It is not just a problem weed; it can cause much more serious harm to the environment, to people's safetyâ?? said Grout. â??Like a lot of the other weeds that we go after, we are really going after them to help protect the special environment of the Upper Peninsula."