FERNANDINA BEACH WEATHER

You can help remove a coastal Invader: Russian Thistle

Justina Dacey
Natural Resources/Agriculture Extension Agent
UF/IFAS Nassau County Extension
543350 US Highway 1
Callahan, FL 32011
904-510-3955

There’s a silent invader slowly spreading among our beaches. It disturbs the local shorebird nesting areas and can impact sea turtle nests too. Recently, its silence has been broken and volunteers have been working diligently on the island to remove it. 

Recently, in spite of corona cases spiking removal efforts are gaining momentum. During the first week of July volunteers with the City of Fernandina Beach partnered with the Florida Park Service to remove patches of Russian thistle spotted along the shoreline at Ft. Clinch State Park. Volunteers worked for several hours and managed to remove over 100 plants ranging from small seedlings to large plants. Volunteers were unable to remove all of the Russian thistle due to the patch being quit large. Another Russian thistle removal event is planned for Tuesday July 21 at 9am. If you’d like to help out, contact Kathy Russell for further details and make sure to fill out the City of Fernandina Beach’s waiver form here: City of Fernandina Beach Waiver.

You may have been pondering why this prickly plant is called Russian thistle? Well, it originates from Russia and Siberia. Related to tumbleweed iconic to the West, this coastal version is a closely related subspecies. It was originally introduced by agriculture as a potential forage for cattle in the mid-west. Unfortunately, due to its prickly nature, cattle don’t have much interest in grazing it. Here in Florida it sprouts up along the beaches beginning in March and by Fall it begins to transition from a green to reddish color. In the last stage it looks dried out, similar to a tumbleweed. In this frail brittle state, its break off tumbling across the sand dunes spreading over 100-200,000 seeds. The seeds lie dormant during winter and the whole cycle begins again. 

If you would like to become a Russian Thistle Wrangler and help us scout and remove this plant, contact Justina Dacey at [email protected] . 

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