BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — As restoration efforts continue in the Calwood Fire burn scar, experts are finding an invasive weed species taking over portions of the landscape.
“Boulder County has the dubious honor of being the only county in the state with this plant called rush skeleton weed,” Boulder County weed specialist Joe Swanson told FOX31.
The plant has been present in Boulder County since about 2011. Experts believe it may have been brought in on a visitor’s pair of boots or a vehicle at Heil Valley Ranch, where the weed’s spread has been significant. However, Swanson says the population of the plant has exploded since the Calwood Fire.
“Fire tends to open up the landscape and reduce the competition for our invasive plants,” he said.
Untreated, the weed could disrupt wildlife habitat
According to Swanson, rush skeleton is able to reestablish itself in scorched soil much earlier than native plants. It uses the nutrients and water, leaving little resources for other plants to grow.
If left untreated, “we would probably have a complete hillside” of the weeds and it would probably be “throughout the rest of the county, displacing wildlife habitat tremendously,” Swanson said.
Swanson and his team have been spending every Monday picking the invasive weeds by hand. They have picked about 20,000 plants over the 250- to 300-acre area but still have a long way to go to eradicating the plant.
On Thursday evening, local non-profit Can’d Aid and a group of their volunteers pitched in to help.
“This is one of my favorite parks to hike in, and it’s been closed because of the fire. So I wanted to give back a little to my favorite hiking place,” volunteer Lauren Blau said.
She is now hoping her contribution can help speed up the restoration at Heil Valley Ranch.
“And in a few years people won’t even really realize that it happened, hopefully,” she said.
Heil Valley Ranch will remain closed to the public until at least Sept. 30.