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Be ready to eradicate Whitetop

Landowners concerned with protecting their plant community from invasive weeds understand that within a short period of time the first signs of the noxious weed Whitetop will appear. Not only is Whitetop one of the first noxious weeds to emerge in the spring, it is also one of the most invasive species throughout Lake County, reducing grazing land, impacting wildlife habitat and contaminating farm land. Early detection of Whitetop and quick response is critical to discourage spreading and protect weed-free areas. 

Introduced into the United States from Eurasia, Whitetop has very few if any predators that stress the plant. It is a relatively long-lived forb with an extensive root system that can reach 30 feet in optimum conditions. Leaves are grayish green, arrowhead-shaped with smooth or occasionally finely toothed edges. The base of each leaf clasps around the stem at the point of attachment. Mature plants can reach two feet tall. As the name implies, Whitetop has a cluster of numerous white flowers, giving the plant a white, flat-topped appearance. Blossoming plants in the early spring can look like late season melting snow. 

Whitetop prefers open, unshaded areas. It occurs on fields, waste areas, meadows, pastures, croplands and along roadsides. The weed reproduces by vegetative shoots and seeds and will eliminate native vegetation. Because of this plant’s aggressive nature the Lake County Weed Control Department and MSU Lake County Extension Office are strongly encouraging all landowners to take a proactive approach in its control. 

(This is part one of a three-part series outlining awareness of Whitetop, its identification, spreading vectors and control techniques.)

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