Vail Valley weed of the week: Houndstongue |

Vail Valley weed of the week: Houndstongue

Gregg Barrie
Vail, CO Colorado
Mary Ellen Harte/Special to the DailyVail Valley weeds: Houndstongue is a leafy plant exhibits bright reddish-purple flowers in mid-summer.

VAIL, Colorado –Houndstongue – or, Cynoglossum officinale – is a notorious hitch-hiker on clothing and animals in Colorado’s Vail Valley. The plant is quickly invading disturbed and natural areas throughout Eagle County. This plant is targeted by Eagle County’s municipal and county Noxious Weed Management Programs.

• A biennial, this plant forms a rosette in the first year. A central stem bolts in the second year producing reddish-purple flowers by mid-summer.

• Leaves are hairy, rough, 1 to 12-inches long and 1 to 3-inches wide.

• Leaves that occur at the base of the plant are elliptical and tapered at the base.

• Leaves often appear dusty and insect ridden.

• Has a thick, black, woody taproot.

• Mature plants produce Velcro-like seeds that stick to clothes and animals.

• Toxic to horses and cattle.

Houndstongue is infamous for hitchhiking on animals. You can find Houndstongue at many trailheads in the area. As with all biennials, one of the best ways to control Houndstongue is to simply prevent it from going to seed by pulling or digging the plant, remembering to remove the root crown completely. It is important to re-visit the area often to control any latecomers.

If controlling through the use of herbicides, they must be applied during the pre-bud stage or in the rosette stage. Pre-bud occurs in the spring or early summer and the rosettes form in late summer and early fall. Surfactants (a surface-active substance) are recommended because of the hairiness of the leaf.

Maintaining healthy native plant communities is the best way to prevent the establishment of noxious weeds. Houndstongue quickly invades disturbed areas so proper revegetation is critical to controlling this plant as well as other noxious weed species.

For more information on these plants and the Weed Management Programs in Eagle County visit or Or call the Eagle County Weed and Pest Department, 970-328-3540, the Town of Vail Department of Public Works 970-479-2158, or the Eagle County Extension Office 970-328-8630.

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