Alaska's Invasive Plants

Non-native species that are found in natural habitats, these plants are inhibited to take over and destroy natural plants.  They spread rapidly and naturally without assistance from man.  Often these weeds will disrupt the natural ecosystem of an environment such as the natural progression, agriculture and recreational lands.  With all that Alaska has to offer it is wise to be aware of what is wreaking havoc in your environment.   A number of Conservation efforts are being made in Alaska to control the spread of invasives in our state.  Organizations such as the Wasilla and Palmer Soil and Water Conservation Districts have made progress in trying to control our invasives by hosting "Weed Smackdowns" for the community to get involved, learn to recognize and control these agriculture pests. 

I feel that many of these invasive plants are valuable to many who live sustainable lives.  Not only are some edible but they provide medicinal benefits to the Alaskan way of life.

The following list is for educational purposes only and should never be used without first seeking counceling from a Doctor.  Natural herbs can be fatal if not used properly and thoroughly researched for harvest dates, plant age, side effects and known historical uses.  Ingesting any of the following herbs can be dangerous withough proper guidance, should you suffer from ailments that might beneifit from natural herbs please, consult your Doctor before use.


  Canada Thistle (cirsium arvense):  Sunflower Family 

Used by Native Americans for a tonic for intestines, diarrhea and treatment for worms; I imagine this was very handy in the frozen north and possibly greatly used.  Tea made from the leaf is used as a tonic and diuretic and is reported as being used for tuberculosis.  Known to induce vomiting and as been used for skin eruptions, skin ulcers and poison ivy.  Eat the roots of first year plants-raw or cooked. Good for adding to salads as they are rather bland in taste but high in nutrition. Peel/cook the stems like asparagus or rhubarb. Chewing the root can alleviate pain from a toothache and act as an anti-inflammatory. rhubarb.

*Flip-side-  A nasty little weed that scratches and infects animal skin.  it produces a chemical that suppresses natural surrounding growth of vegetation. and is considered to be extremely difficult to eradicate.
  Oxeye Daisy (leucanthemum vulgare): Sunflower Family
Known to be a weaker version of Chamomile with milder effects.  Infusions made from the stalks, stems and petals make a wonderful infusion for harsh coughs.  Old lore speaks of the Oxeye Daisy as being useful for the chest area and therefore often used in oils and ointments.   More research into the accounts of use for: refreshing the liver and other organs, ulcers, sciatica and gout.  It is known to "temper heat" so the uses could be immense for this for this little pest. 
*Flip-side- Oxeye is not edible for grazing animals and can act as host to a variety of plant viruses.  Letting this weed get out of control will cause your soil to erode.
  Orange Hawkweed (hieracium aurantiacum): Sunflower Family
Interesting little weed that grows mainly in the East and Northern parts of America.  Water, that is the magic to the Orange Hawkweed as it pulls out the medicinal qualities.  Known to have astringent qualities that enable the tightening of skin or shrinkage of tissue.  In Alaska this could be a very helpful bit of knowledge if you are an outdoor person.  More research should be sought to find dosage and recipes.
*Flip-side- Can spread at quick rates through meadows and wetlands and will crowd out native plants.
  Common Tandy (tanacetum vulgare): Sunflower Family
Also known as the Golden Button it carries a long history of medicinal use.  Due to the high alkaloids this plant is toxic if consumed in large quantities to both man and beast.  Long term consumption in large quantities has caused convulsions and proven fatal.  The Romans grew this plant in their gardens for treatments for intestinal, large quanties have used to induce abortions yet, some have said that in small doses it actually prevents miscarriages ... be wary whenever you use herbs and consult your Doctor prior to use.  In the United States Pharmacopoeia it is listed as a treatment for colds and fevers.
*Flip-side- Records show that hand pulling this weed without gloves is toxic and care should be taken when eradicating from your surrounding area.   Mildly toxic to grazing animals though the taste is undesirable. This plant can grow near streams, rivers and creeks and disrupt or restrict the water flow.
  Japanese Knotweed (polygonum cuspidatum, p. bohemica): Buckwheat Family

*Resveratrol has been identified as a potent flavinoid found in high quantities in this plant, it is considered to have a number of beneficial effects: anticancer, ant-aethrogenic, anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and estrogenic activity.  Also, known to suppress a wide variety of tumor cells, including leukemia, lymphoma, and breast cancers, prostate, colon and mealnoma.  Cardiovascular, weight loss, cancers, antioxidant, lyme disease, antimicrobial, antiviral are only some of the possibilities of this miracle weed.  There have been studies that show this plant interacts with many various pharmaceuticals and your Doctor should be consulted before use.
*Flip-side- For wildlife, fish and insects this plant is a nightmare and can cause severe clogging of our waterways.  For Alaska where our coastlines are famous for Salmon Berries and Thimbleberries this is not good new as this is the growing grounds for this invasive pest and should be eradicated at all costs.