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Published August 15, 2009, 12:00 AM

Noxious weed spreading

State weed control officials say that the noxious weed, absinth wormwood, appears to be spreading.

By: Beth Wischmeyer, The Dickinson Press

State weed control officials say that the noxious weed, absinth wormwood, appears to be spreading.

“Weed officers and producers are telling us that they are seeing more and larger infestations of absinth wormwood, especially in western North Dakota,” said Doug Goehring, state agricultural commissioner. “There have also been reports of this plant being sold at some retail locations in the state.”

Also known as American wormwood, common wormwood, mugwort, madderwort and wormwood sage, absinth wormwood was first brought to this country in the early 19th century from Europe where it is cultivated for medicinal purposes, as an ornamental plant and as a flavoring. It is an ingredient and gives its name to the once-notorious alcoholic beverage, absinthe, until recently banned in this country because of its supposed narcotic properties, according to the NDDA.

In Stark County the weed has also been found and officials are taking steps to take care of it with herbicides.

“We’ve seen a fair amount,” said Travis Jepson, Stark County Weed Control employee. “It doesn’t seem to be just in one particular area.”

Blake Schaan, a noxious weed specialist with the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, said the plant is a perennial that can infest land to the point where forage production can be greatly decreased.

“It can taint the milk of cows that feed on it,” Schaan said. “It can also cause erosion problems if it out competes the grass.”

Absinth wormwood has been on North Dakota’s noxious weed list since at least 1971. State law requires landowners control the spread of noxious weeds on their property.

Each plant produces several thousand seeds and can also reproduce by its roots, Schaan said.

“Lately we’ve noticed a definite increase or increase in report from county weed boards that it’s on the increase everywhere,” Schaan said.

The plant is also found in cities, especially in abandoned lots that are not regularly mowed. Some people are allergic to the plant.

North Dakota reported 554,175 acres infested with absinth wormwood in 2008.

Absinth wormwood can be controlled by a variety of herbicides, Schaan said, including picloram, dicamba, clopyralid, aminopyralid, glyphosate and 2,4-D.

Application during late July through the end of August produces the best results, Goehring said. If herbicide application is difficult, mowing plants before seed set is recommended.

Research is under way to find biological agents to control it, Schaan said.

Producers should contact their local weed board for cost-share assistance or for information. To contact the Stark County Weed Board, call 701-456-7665.