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Health, Science & Environment

Volunteers Deploy Weevils To Fight Invasive Plant

Freedom Shearer-Davis is tapping the contents a small plastic cup onto a plant that hugs the ground. This puncture vine – also known as goathead -- is dotted with deceptively dainty yellow flowers. The weevils look like a wad of dryer lint spilling out.

“Did you get ‘em all?” asks her mom, Adrienne Shearer-Davis.

“Yeah!” says the six-year-old.

“’K. Let’s flag it.”

Freedom’s family is part of a small volunteer army that came out to the banks of the Jordan River on Friday to spread puncturevine weevils where these invasive plants have taken over. It’s part of a bigger plan to make the recreation corridor more hospitable for native species and people.

Each goathead pod can hold up to 2,000 seeds, and they become a thorny nuisance when they dry. They’re known for popping holes in bicycle tires and stabbing the paws of dogs walking the riverside trail.

“They’re nasty, and if there’s a natural, healthy way to get rid of ‘em without pesticides and ruining the river, then we’re all for it,” says Freedom’s dad, Marshall Shearer-Davis.

The Jordan River Commission has sponsored these bio-control events for four years in a row. Commission Director Laura Hanson estimates that goatheads cover around 30 miles of the Jordan River’s banks where herbicides have been used to keep weeds down.

“The problem for us,” she says, “is that they have made sections of this beautiful multi-million-dollar trail system all but unusable at certain times of the year.”

One species of weevils kills the plants by burrowing into their seedpods. Another sets up house in the stems.

People who missed Friday’s goathead squad still have a chance to help. Goathead weevils are available for adoption on the Jordan River Commission’s web page.

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